The Politics of Gorsuch
The ordinary and the extraordinary with the latest SCOTUS nomination.
1. This is a win for Trump and a vindication for many Trump voters. It is inevitable that President Trump will get a SCOTUS nominee onto the bench, and there really is no reason to assume that it won’t be Neil Gorsuch. This just comes with the territory of being President. To pretend otherwise is just foolish.
Further, many Trump voters voted for Trump precisely for the purpose of getting a conservative onto the Court. The confirmation of Gorsuch will wash away a lot of the other objections to Trump is minds of many of his voters (or, at least, it will justify their vote despite all the other issues).
2. Gorsuch is a mainstream Republican nominee. So far as I can see, there is nothing about Gorsuch that would justify a filibuster (except, simply a change in the partisan dynamic of SCOTUS nominations). Indeed, I have been struck by the degree to which the vast majority of Democratic objections to his nomination sounds like every other set of objections I have heard by Democrats concerning most Republican nominees.
The bottom line is this: there is no likely Republican nominee that will please Democrats and, further, Republicans have no reason to capitulate to a more moderate nominee.
When Senator Schumer says the following, it honestly just sounds like political white noise to me insofar as a) he would have said it about any Trump nominee, b) it won’t make any difference, c) he is saying it for his constituency, not anyone else, and d) the notion of a “mainstream nominee” (i.e., one the Dems would like) is a silly formulation is this context:
“So instead of changing the rules, which is up to Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority, why doesn’t President Trump, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate sit down and try to come up with a mainstream nominee?”
3. The nukes are available no matter what. The fact of the matter is that the GOP can change the rules, so all of this posturing by the Democrats is pointless (apart from whatever aspect of political theater they think it is worth).
Now, the prequel to all of this was the death of Antonin Scalia and the subsequent nomination of Merrick Garland by President Obama and the subsequent refusal by the Republican majority in the Senate to consider the nomination. Democrats are angry over this and want a pound of flesh for what they consider an abuse of power by the Republicans.
The hard truth for Democrats on Garland is this: the Republicans gambled and won. They were willing to pass on an older, moderate nominee with the hope that they would win the presidency while knowing that if the Democrats won the election that the new nominee would be younger and more liberal. They won that wager. Ultimately, there is no way around that.
I will conclude by pointing out that all of this made into such ridiculously high stakes by the fact that members of the judiciary serve for life. I would highly recommend a system for the Supreme Court that looks more like the Federal Reserve (long, fixed terms), as well as instituting a mandatory retirement age (around the world it is typically 70 or 75). The notion of life appointments really makes any nomination a big deal, especially since the trend in recent decades is to appoint as young a Justice as possible. Of course, that is a whole other conversation.