“We’re going to confirm Judge Gorsuch this week.” That’s the pledge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made on Fox News Channel’s “Fox News Sunday” yesterday morning.
Meanwhile, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declared adamantly that Judge Neil Gorsuch would not reach the 60-vote benchmark required for cloture to move to a confirmation vote, suggesting President Donald Trump would have to work with Democrats to “try to come up with a mainstream nominee.”
As usual, it seems — on the surface, at least — congressional Republicans and Democrats are operating in two entirely different universes. On the one hand, Senate Republican leaders are promising a speedy confirmation. On the other, Senate Democrats are telling their left-wing base they’ll keep the “extremist” Gorsuch from ever reaching the bench. We'll find out today, when the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on whether to pass Gorsuch on to the full Senate for consideration, just how strong Democratic Party opposition is to Gorsuch's confirmation.
While this might appear to be nothing more than another case of extreme political partisanship on the part of one or both of these Senate leaders, don’t be fooled; Democrats know Gorsuch will be America’s next Supreme Court justice, and frankly, they don’t care. This week’s struggle is nothing more than a small skirmish in the larger war for control of the Supreme Court and a prelude to a far more important battle — one that will likely be fought later in Trump’s first term.
Gorsuch was, in more ways than one, the perfect choice to fill Antonin Scalia’s place on the Supreme Court. Not only is he a true, libertarian-leaning judge that cares deeply about sticking to the original intent of the Constitution, he’s also a scandal-free, eminently qualified candidate. He has earned the praise of the American Bar Association and received overwhelming support from both parties in Congress when being confirmed to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2006, when Senate Democrats such as Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Dick Durbin (Ill.) and even Schumer voted in his favor.
Historically, whenever one party has the sort of control Republicans now hold over the levers of power in Washington, D.C., the minority party knows its only chance to stop a Supreme Court nominee is to so damage his reputation that the majority party has no choice but to move in a more moderate direction. Without control of the White House or the Senate, a minority party knows any attempt to filibuster a nominee can be thwarted by a change to the Senate rules that allows the majority to end debate with just 51 votes, a strategy commonly referred to as the “nuclear option.”
This is why a party in the minority that is serious about stopping a Supreme Court nominee must destroy that person so severely in the minds of the American public that majority-party senators have no choice but to call for another candidate.
When there are no sex scandals, dirty business dealings or distasteful 20-year-old commentaries to dig up, minority parties are forced to transform ideological differences into the “proof” they need to show extremism — a tactic that works only for liberals when the entire left-wing political machine, the mainstream media included, is working together in a highly-coordinated effort. This isn’t easy to pull off, but when liberals, helped by the media, throw enough mud on the wall, they usually succeed.
The only downside to such a strategy is that it expends a great deal of political capital and, especially when done early on in a president’s first term, it creates the possibility of building a “boy who cried wolf” sentiment in the minds of the public. Let’s be clear: The powerful leftist machine probably could destroy Gorsuch’s reputation by hurling mountains of absurd accusations against him, but they know they can’t play the “extremist card” with every hand they’re dealt, and it’s very possible Trump could get to select one, two or even three more justices. This, more than anything else, is the real reason we haven’t seen the sort of coordinated media blitz against Gorsuch we normally do from Democrats and their allies.
Gorsuch would replace Scalia on the bench, which means the dynamics of the Supreme Court won’t change from what they’ve been for many years. With Gorsuch, there will still be four conservative justices, four liberals, and liberal-leaning Justice Anthony Kennedy to break any ties. Democrats can live with that. What they won’t tolerate, however, is the possibility of the dynamics shifting further in conservatives’ favor.
Once Gorsuch is confirmed, the three oldest remaining judges on the bench will be Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 84, Kennedy, 80, and Stephen Breyer, 78. The oldest conservative justice will be Clarence Thomas, and he’s only 68 years old. If Ginsburg, Kennedy or Breyer leave the Court, for whatever reason, it will be a complete and utter disaster for leftists, especially if Trump appoints another judge like Gorsuch to fill the seat.
Liberals’ only hope is to ride the Trump storm out, hoping Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer stay put until Democrats can capture the White House or the Senate. If liberals are unlucky enough to lose one of those three justices, the only option remaining would be a scorched-earth campaign against whoever Trump chooses as the replacement — no matter how qualified — and for that to occur, Democrats need all the political capital and goodwill they can get.
So, don’t be lulled into thinking a Gorsuch confirmation is proof of the strength of Republicans, the weakness of liberals, or a sign of good things to come should another Supreme Court seat become available. Liberals are merely holding their best troops in reserve in anticipation of the much more vital endeavor ahead, one that could push America’s future in the direction of conservatism for the next half century.