Sometimes I seriously believe the present-day Democratic Party is filled with the biggest conglomeration of pessimists and quitters in the history of American politics. Today, as many of us feared, another shoe dropped in the ongoing crisis of the Donald Trump presidency: Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement effective July 31. Obviously, this means a president who’s an agent of the Kremlin, on top of being an agent of chaos, will get to nominate yet another justice to the Supreme Court. With a Republican-controlled Congress, it appears as if Trump might actually succeed in confirming whomever that might be, no matter how awful.
If you ask Democratic voters on Twitter, however, they’ll tell you this series of events has already transpired — that there’s no chance of successfully fighting the inevitable. While it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult to prevent Trump and Mitch McConnell, his slippery myrmidon in the Republican Party’s campaign to gut political traditions and constitutional norms, from stacking the court yet again, all hope isn’t lost.
There are a variety of things that can happen, both in terms of circumstance and in terms of political strategy to stop this nomination.
1) Stop whining! Without a doubt, the first thing that needs to happen is Democrats need to grow a vibranium backbone and stop rending their garments. For decades now, I’ve watched one Democratic effort after another fail because Dems refuse to prioritize winning, instead half-heartedly meandering toward a win but constantly tripping over their own feet, being sidetracked by an almost pathological need to self-defeat. Either we pay too much attention to cable news screechers who, to avoid GOP attacks, soft-pedal on Democratic accomplishments, policy and potential for success, or we pay too much attention to the purity trolls and “lesser of two evils” scolds who comport themselves as geniuses but who actually have zero interest in endorsing the concept of winning.
Regarding those people, anyone who tells you this fight is over shouldn’t be taken seriously. Likewise, anyone who tells you it’s more important to retain ideological purity over winning elections should be tarred and feathered. After all, it’s the contrarians who helped land us in this crisis in the first place — the alt-leftists who voted for Jill Stein while castigating as alarmists those of us who warned about a Trump presidency. Given the outcome of that election, ejector-seating these alt-left bozos (Stein, Sarandon, Uygur, Greenwald, et al) has to be step one, followed by making the concept of winning the top priority.
2) What Bruno said:
3) Get mad. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, of all people, declared that “it’s time for vengeance.” Say what you will about Matthews, but he’s right about this — vengeance against Mitch McConnell’s nuclear shenanigans is mandatory, shenanigans that included his blocking of Merrick Garland’s nomination and his decision to kill the filibuster against Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation last year. In order to pursue vengeance, the left needs to be vicious and unstoppable. That goes for senators, voters and activists. How do we put this into action? Read on.
4) Jeff Flake is ripe. Sen. Flake hates Donald Trump, and especially what Trump’s done to his party. He’s poachable. If the Senate Dems and activists can successfully lobby Flake to vote against Trump’s nominee, the nomination will fail. Sen. John McCain, due to failing health, is probably an abstention, which puts the vote at 50 Republicans, 49 Dems. Successfully grab Flake’s vote and it’s the opposite: 49-50 in the Dems’ favor, and the nominee is blocked. Flake aside, Schumer could grab another Republican like, say, pro-choice Republicans Susan Collins and/or Lisa Murkowski. Is this gambit possible? Sure. Is it likely? Who knows. But we’ll never know for sure unless we try. That means supporting an effort to win Republican votes against Trump’s nominee without getting into all of the usual social media traps in which the aforementioned contrarians refuse to play ball with the other side over, again, bullshit ideological purity.
5) Roe is on the chopping block. Returning to the crying, if you’re still lacking motivation to pull out all the stops in this fight for the soul of the country, think about it this way. Anthony Kennedy leaned conservative on a variety of issues. Hell, he’s allowing Trump to pick his successor, illustrating where his loyalties have been. But one thing he’s not is anti-choice. Kennedy kept the overturning of Roe v Wade at bay. His successor probably won’t be pro-choice, which means a court decision on overturning reproductive rights will end up being a now-calcified 5-4 decision in favor of obliterating privacy rights.
In that regard, this fight has to be viewed as an existential one, not unlike the midterms, especially for women. Even more importantly, if abortion is criminalized, both doctors and abortion seekers could be jailed for manslaughter. (There’s also a chance that the Surpremes, even some of the conservative justices, agree that Roe has been on the books long enough to be the permanent law of the land. That said, who wants to rely on the alleged sanity of the conservative justices in the age of Trump insanity?)
6) Flip the Senate. If Chuck Schumer and liberal activists are somehow able to block and delay the confirmation vote until after the midterm elections, it’ll provide more cover for Republicans to flip against Trump during the subsequent lame duck Congress. If the vote is further delayed until the new Congress is sworn in, it might not matter unless the Dems can win a majority in the Senate. Obviously the divide is tantalizingly narrow. The Dems only need two seats for a 51 seat majority. However, the map isn’t at all favorable to that endeavor given how there are 25 Dem seats up for grabs and only eight Republican seats. Clearly, this means the Dems need to protect all 25 seats while winning a few of the eight Republican seats, or some variation of that. Overall, this is a long shot with myriad working parts, but it’s not impossible.
7) Messaging. The Dems have to use the McConnell Rule against him. I’m speaking of the rule McConnell invented in 2016 in which he declared it’s impossible to confirm a justice in an election year. At the time, McConnell issued this statement: “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice.” Today, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) both cribbed McConnell’s statement and used it as their own in response to Kennedy’s retirement. Very smart. Literally every member of the Democratic Party should follow suit by repeating the McConnell line as their official position on this mess. At the very least, it embodies what I hope will be a new reality that we’re not going to merely sit back and accept McConnell’s games as unilateral. We can play games, too. And maybe, along the way, the Dems will accumulate popular support for blocking Trump’s guy.
I’m sure there are other possibilities, but these are a good start.
As Bruno said on The West Wing, “No more.” No more defeatism, no more crying, no more capitulation, no more cowering in the corner, begging, “Please don’t hurt me.” The Trump-branded Republican Party has pushed us around for long enough, despite their own incompetence. Now, today, we have to decide whether we’re fed up enough to use our voices and, indeed, our bodies, if we have to, to block Trump from further stacking the bench with justices who’ll potentially look the other way on his malfeasance and treason. Remember, there’s a very strong chance the Russia matter or a crucial part of it will end up being adjudicated by the Supremes, and a 5-4 conservative Trumper court will surely end in disaster, destruction and despotism. Don’t let it. Don’t give up. Don’t let them win.