The idea that elections have consequences has not been lost on grassroots Republicans — in fact it has been a driving force behind what has animated the Republican base since 2009. And at the heart of that has been the Supreme Court. For over two ...
“Elections have consequences. I won.” That was President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaPoll: Obama tops list ranking best president in Americans' lifetime Tax cuts since 2000 have mostly benefited high earners: study The SCOTUS nomination clearly demonstrates that elections have consequences MORE’s response to congressional Republicans in a 2009 White House meeting regarding his economic proposals.
Democrats are now on the receiving end of this quote. In less than 18 months after Trump’s presidency, he announced his second nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court: District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh.
As they say, karma is...well, let’s just say it ain’t pretty.
The idea that elections have consequences has not been lost on grassroots Republicans — in fact it has been a driving force behind what has animated the Republican base since 2009. And at the heart of that has been the Supreme Court.
For over two generations Republican voters clamored for its leadership to get the nation’s highest court in basic alignment with the party’s conservative agenda; it didn’t happen.
Of the 15 justices Republican presidents have named since World War II, five — Earl Warren, William Brennan, Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens and David Souter — inevitably anchored the “liberal wing” of the court. Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor — both Ronald Reagan appointees, became “swing votes.” Of the seven justices named by Democratic presidents, all were consistently liberal.
But in 2016 — not even knowing if he would win the presidency — Trump made a clever deal to unify Republicans behind his candidacy. He pledged to nominate a Supreme Court justice from a list of very accomplished judges vetted by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.
The list was decidedly conservative and not heavily comprised of your typical legal elites. Base Republicans loved it; and had, in effect, a contract with its presidential nominee — one President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-Russia ambassador: Trump has done more damage to NATO in months than Russia has in decades Trump takes credit for increased defense spending by NATO allies, but says 'it isn't nearly enough' Trump questions how Russia probe can 'proceed' given FBI agent's private comments MORE would honor soon enough.
Meanwhile, Democrats were focused less on what the next president of the United States could do with a Supreme Court nomination and more on who that next president would be. Consequently, the election saw Democrats lose both the White House and the U.S. Senate.
In 2017, the GOP-controlled chamber confirmed Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia. But the price paid by Democrats was avoidable.
In 2013, in an act of pure arrogance, Democrats led by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidThe SCOTUS nomination clearly demonstrates that elections have consequences Judd Gregg: Abortion is the straw dog of Court confirmation process An end game on Supreme Court nominations MORE (D-Nev.) voted along party lines to change Senate rules to limit the Republican minority from blocking presidential nominees.
Under the new rules, presidential nominees for all executive-branch positions and judicial vacancies below that of Supreme Court could be confirmed with a majority of just 51 votes. The so-called “nuclear option” effectively eliminated the longtime 60-vote threshold for overcoming a filibuster on nearly all nominations.
In response, then-GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate confirms Trump DOJ nominee with ties to Russian bank The SCOTUS nomination clearly demonstrates that elections have consequences The Hill's Morning Report — Dems attack, but know they don’t have the votes on Kavanaugh MORE (R-Ky.) issued a warning to the Democrats, “I say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, you’ll regret this. And you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”
Well, “sooner” has just happened.
Had newly minted Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerTrump's latest win: More Americans are saying, 'I quit!' San Francisco Fed economists: GOP tax law will boost economy less than expected Red state Democrats will vote on Supreme Court pick to stay alive MORE (D-N.Y.) been less focused on pay-back for the GOP blocking of the Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandThe SCOTUS nomination clearly demonstrates that elections have consequences Protesters to hold rally urging Schumer to 'whip the vote' against Supreme Court pick Conservative group plans ad launch after court announcement to pressure red-state Dems MORE nomination and thinking strategically to avoid Senate Republicans from applying the nuclear option on the Gorsuch nomination, then perhaps now finding themselves on the losing end of a 49-51 Senate divide would not be the judicial desert the Kavanaugh nomination has become for them.
As the “advice and consent” process begins on Capitol Hill, Democrats are left with only public protests, wild accusations and threats and the occasional awkward moment of truth. They are up against “Gorsuch 2.0.”
Judge Kavanaugh’s very impressive 12 years on the D.C. court includes 300 opinions on many vital constitutional issues and “the experience and intellect to be a leader on the [Supreme] Court.” Even if a Republican or two could be peeled away, remember that five Democratic senators are up for re-election in states that Trump overwhelmingly carried — and they voted for Gorsuch.
But the Kavanaugh nomination will be a cakewalk for Democrats compared to what may well be the “Mother of all Battles” if either or both Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg or Justice Stephen Breyer retires from the bench during the Trump presidency.
Should that occur, for President Trump his role is straightforward: stick to the list. For Mitch McConnell, his mission is clear: confirm a reliable conservative, constitutional majority. And for Democrats, well, they are staring at a potential 6-3 or even a 7-2 conservative majority on the court with virtually few to no options to prevent it.
Yeah, that firmly anchored, conservative Supreme Court could happen — sooner than you think.
Michael Steele is the former Republican National Committee chairman and former lieutenant governor of Maryland. He is also an MSNBC political analyst.
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