President Trump has announced his nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Who it is doesn’t really matter — at least not in terms of the nominee’s legitimacy of the appointment.
The GOP made clear on the night of Ginsburg’s death that they planned to rush a conservative into her seat while they have the power to do so. Never mind that the voting process had already begun, which probably should have given pause to the Republicans. Four years ago, they refused to even consider confirming President Obama’s nominee to replace Antonin Scalia, arguing that it was an election year and the next president should fill the vacancy. But no matter, within hours of Ginsburg’s death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) announced his intent to push through a new, Trump-appointed justice. And within days, enough GOP senators were on board to render the actual identity of the nominee irrelevant. It’s a plug-and-play assault on democratic norms.
Republicans are barely bothering to attempt to rationalize the reversal. Most of them have issued vague statements about constitutional authority and upholding the will of the people. Never mind that if and when they confirm Trump’s nominee, conservatives will have a 6-3 supermajority on the court despite Republican presidential candidates losing the popular vote in 6 of the 8 elections that account for the current court’s composition. Trump, one of those losing candidates, will have appointed 3 of them. The result will be a court poised to subvert the will of the American people, including by eroding reproductive rights and possibly even by overturning Roe v. Wade, which nearly 80 percent of the population supports. Other rulings would likely represent a similar dissonance.
The next step, presumably, will be for the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold hearings to vet the nominee. According to the Constitution, here is where the Senate is supposed to provide a check on the president, to offer “advice and consent” on judicial nominees. It’s a quaint idea for Republicans who long ago pledged their allegiance to the president. Judiciary Committee Lindsey Graham revealed as much Monday on Fox News when he announced that Republicans had already secured enough votes to confirm the nominee — which had yet to be announced. “We’re going to move forward in the committee, we’re going to report the nomination out of the committee to the floor of the United States Senate so we can vote before the election,” he said. “Now, that’s the constitutional process.”
Graham has timed the hearings to boost Trump’s re-election prospects, with the confirmation ceremony slated to take place in late October, days before November 3rd. Republicans will lob the nominee softballs about their record in the judiciary. Democrats will grill them about their conservative bias, the degree to which their faith may inform their rulings, and maybe even their comments four years ago about how confirming Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia would set a dangerous precedent by replacing a staunch conservative with “someone who could dramatically flip the balance of power in the court.” Similar concerns were voiced by McConnell, Graham, and the other Republicans now scrambling to backdoor a Supreme Court supermajority out of what could be their last few weeks in control.
So — in terms of preserving a government that’s by and for the people — it doesn’t matter who Trump nominated to sit on the nation’s most powerful court for the rest of their life. Republicans know this person came from a list of options supplied by the Heritage Foundation, which wants the course of America to be charted not by the people, but by an ultra-conservative minority determined to ensure the rich get richer and the powerful stay in power. Republicans agree. They’ve been subverting the popular will with varying degrees of subterfuge to achieve this outcome for decades. Trump has given them permission to stop working so hard to mask their intentions.
Never mind democracy.