The days left on the calendar until the end of Donald Trump’s presidency keep slipping away, at least in the minds of many Democrats. And with them, the amount of time remaining for another vacancy on the Supreme Court to come up. But we’re in the middle of an election year, aren’t we? Surely the Senate Republican majority wouldn’t attempt to drive through another Trump nominee before the people have spoken in the November elections.
Don’t be silly. Of course they would. Allahpundit already walked through both the mechanics of how it would work and the rationale that the Senate Majority leadership would likely offer to explain why this situation is different than that of Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016. But such an analysis doesn’t do full justice to the true hero of this story. That would be Midnight Mitch McConnell (or Cocaine Mitch or whatever other cool nicknames the Democrats want to give him this year). In an only partially satirical piece at the Free Beacon, Andrew Stiles explains why McConnell is an American hero, upholding his constitutional duties in the face of public pressure and political headwinds that might cow a lesser man into retreat.
McConnell, however, could not care less. He is more concerned with the solemn fulfillment of his professional and constitutional obligations, which include providing “advice and consent” on presidential nominations. When asked in 2019 what Republicans would do in the event of an election-year vacancy on the Supreme Court, the majority leader responded with characteristic resolve: “Oh, we’d fill it.”
Democrats are understandably on edge. Ginsburg could have retired during the Obama administration, but thanks to her personal trainer—2018 Free Beacon Man of the Year Bryant Johnson—she decided to power through. After all, Hillary Clinton couldn’t possibly lose, could she?
In an effort to stay alive until a Democrat is elected president, RBG has brazenly defied “stay at home” guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic, sneaking into the Supreme Court’s private gym to continue her workout sessions.
In order to develop his satirical celebration of Mitch McConnell’s prowess, Stiles focuses almost entirely on a scenario where Ruth Bader Ginsburg is no longer on the court at some point later this year. Given her health issues lately, I suppose that’s understandable. I personally wish her nothing but good health and long life, but would note that it’s also possible that she might have second thoughts and decide to retire. (Well… it’s hypothetically possible, anyway.) Or any of the other liberal justices could decide to leave. The same scenario would apply.
Would there be a certain amount of hypocrisy involved if an opening popped up on the nation’s highest court and McConnell moved to fill it only months before the election? Of course there would be, at least if we’re pretending that this is an entirely nonpartisan process. The explanation about how a seat should only be left open when different parties control the White House and the Senate majority not only makes no sense but highlights the partisan nature of the argument. Either the Senate should or shouldn’t process nominations during an election year. The Constitution imposes no such barrier, so it’s up to the Senate to make the rules, and both parties will continue to argue for an interpretation that best serves their interests.
Since the ball is currently in the GOP’s court, McConnell will rhetorically stick his fingers in his ears as the Democrats and the cable news host who love them begin excoriating him for his decision and plow forward. Trying to pretend that the Democrats would behave differently if the shoe were on the other foot is disingenuous at best. And the fact remains that whether you like it or not, Donald Trump will be out of office at some point, either next year or in 2025. And history has shown us that there’s no such thing as a permanent majority and the Democrats will retake the White House at some point. But Supreme Court justices don’t fade away so quickly. Putting another Trump-nominated conservative in place of one of the liberal justices would have a profound impact on the court for a generation.
If Cocaine Mitch pulls off the hat trick in this regard, he will have cemented his own legacy for many years to come and he knows it. Honestly, I won’t be terribly shocked if he announces his retirement as soon as Donald Trump leaves office.