Commentary, Trump Administration

Doormats no more: Responding to the “Democrats should play by the rules” argument on Gorsuch nomination

Image of a doormat

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Some good and well-meaning people are arguing this morning that Democrats should once again, as they almost always do, compromise and play the role of responsible grown-ups with respect to Donald Trump’s nomination of right-wing judge, Neil Gorsuch.

The honorable editorial writers at the Charlotte Observer make such a case this morning. They argue that even though Republicans wrongfully stole the nomination, Democrats should acquiesce and do what the GOP refused to do for President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland: judge him on his merits.

While doing so would provide plenty of good reasons to reject Gorsuch, here is another vote this morning for playing hardball on the nomination. Here’s why:

Times have changed in American politics. Maybe at some point, the genie can be coaxed back into the bottle, but right now, Trumpism and its enablers in the the “conservative” movement represent a brand of lawless, iron-fisted, ends-justify-the-means politics that is so base and dangerous that it must be resisted with every tool at our disposal.

As columnist David Leonhardt rightfully observes in this morning’s New York Times:

“It’s important to remember just how radical — and, yes, unprecedented — the Senate’s approach to the previous Supreme Court nominee was.

Republican leaders announced last March that they would not consider any nominee. They did so even though Barack Obama still had 10 months left in his term and even though other justices (including Anthony Kennedy) had been confirmed in a president’s final year.

The refusal was a raw power grab. Coupled with Republican hints that no Hillary Clinton nominee would be confirmed either, it was a fundamental changing of the rules: Only a party that controlled both the White House and the Senate would now be able to assume it could fill a Supreme Court vacancy….

…Democrats should not weigh this nomination the same way that they’ve weighed previous ones. This one is different. The presumption should be that Gorsuch does not deserve confirmation, because the process that led to his nomination was illegitimate….

…the Democratic Party should begin planning its long-term strategy for the court, and that strategy needs to revolve around last year’s events. One option, for example, would be a plan first to deprive a Republican president of one nominee in coming years and second to offer a truce with Republicans.

I understand that all of these options sound aggressive and partisan, and it makes me deeply uncomfortable to make such an argument. But Democrats simply cannot play by the old set of rules now that the Republicans are playing by a new one. The only thing worse than the system that the Republicans have created is a system in which one political party volunteers to be bullied.”

The bottom line: Democrats should be willing to play by the traditional rules of engagement in Washington when the Trumpists commit — really commit — to do likewise. Until then, they should use every tool at their disposal to resist the ongoing assault on our democracy. Fighting the Gorsuch nomination is an excellent place to start.

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