The GOP’s strategy regarding Merrick Garland, Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, is bizarre to me. As a liberal, I think Garland deserves a vote and should ideally be confirmed. I understand, however, why the Republicans are reticent to do this. After all, why appoint a liberal justice when there is an impending election? Why not make the election a referendum on the Supreme Court? While I understand the arguments in favor of GOP obstructionism, I think they are completely inane. I don’t say this as a Democrat, either. This strategy is bad for the Republicans. In fact, it is downright stupid.
First, let’s look at the upcoming election rationally. There is almost no possibility that the GOP wins. Poll after poll clearly shows Clinton demolishing both Cruz and Trump, and the only Republican candidate that can easily beat Clinton – John Kasich – has no prayer of getting the nomination. Even if there is a brokered convention and the establishment is able to force a moderate candidate down the voters’ throats, there would be such a yuge backlash from Trump supporters that it would still be nearly impossible for the GOP to win. What does that mean? Well, it means that Clinton will have free reign to appoint an even more liberal justice. After all, the only reason Obama nominated a judge as moderate as Garland is that he is mostly a lame duck. If Clinton wins, she will have a fresh mandate and will be far more willing and able to put an extreme leftist on the bench.
Now, the Republicans can block this Clinton nominee in theory, but in practice that is far less likely. After all, newly elected presidents have historically been able to implement sweeping changes and force controversial legislation through Congress. Look at Obamacare, for example. Moreover, with Trump destroying the Republican brand name, it is very likely that the Democrats will regain control of the Senate, all but guaranteeing an extreme liberal gets approved.
That’s the other thing. Why on earth are the Republicans imperiling their vulnerable senators? Purple and blue states are already turning against their Republican senators because the center/left populations in those states are growing tired of the racist and frightening rhetoric coming out of the Republican Party. By forcing Republican senators to stonewall on Garland, the GOP leadership risks further exacerbating the distrust between liberal voters and their conservative representatives. The GOP gained massively in 2010 because the Democrats pushed too hard with the Stimulus and with Obamacare. Now the GOP is making the same mistake: they are risking their hold on the Senate by resisting the appointment of a moderate liberal justice. Does a liberal version of John Roberts pose such a threat to the Republican Party that it’s worth sacrificing the Senate? I don’t think so.
Finally, the GOP needs to get real. They have been intransigent and uncooperative since they gained control of the legislature. From shutting down the government to creating a record-breaking number of vacancies in appointed positions, they have failed to govern. This strategy has worked so far because Republicans have been able to pin the blame on Obama. Now, with the Trump revolution, we are beginning to see large segments of the GOP base turn against the extremist Tea Party elements that have refused to fulfill their mandate. If the GOP doesn’t start doing their job, they not only risk the Senate and the White House, they risk their credibility as a party.
As a moderate Democrat, I appreciate that it’s important for both parties to check the other’s extremes. I am no fan of Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders, and I am grateful that there are conservative voices that can check Democratic overreach. That being said, Republicans have to respect that they don’t control the White House. They have a right, a duty even, to prevent left-wing extremists from getting onto the court. However, they have to also be willing to compromise and agree to grant moderate consensus candidates a fair hearing.
The GOP does not have to confirm Garland, though it’s probably in their best interest given the alternatives. They do have to give him a hearing, though. That is their job and their responsibility. Obama was elected to a four-year term, not a three-year term. If the GOP refuses to even grant Garland a hearing, they risk the Senate, they risk their party’s credibility, and they risk being shut out of government when the Democrats eventually regain control of the Senate. Moreover, they are creating a dangerous precedent which they might come to regret when they control the White House. Stonewalling is not governing, and until the GOP learns this, they risk their party’s future.