Remember when the Republican Senate shredded the only norm—luck of timing—that stands between the Supreme Court’s standing as an institution and the implications of its complete politicization?
Here are some examples of the core logic that Republican officials used to justify their actions:
…. A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics. The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice. —Grassley
…. We should let the American people decide the direction of the court. —Ryan
…. The only way to empower the American people and ensure they have a voice is for the next President to make the nomination to fill this vacancy. —Cornyn
…. The American people are perfectly capable of having their say on this issue, so let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide. The Senate will appropriately revisit the matter when it considers the qualifications of the nominee the next president nominates, whoever that might be. —McConnell
Well, the American people did have their say. They cast, by a 2.6 million vote margin, a plurality of votes for a major-party candidate with, for instance, the most expansive views of reproductive rights in decades. Clinton and Trump both made clear position on Supreme Court appointments. The public made it clear, by 48%-46%, that they preferred Clinton. While the libertarian ticket sent contradictory signals on the Court, you could make a strong case that over 50% of the public explicitly, and easily, rejected Trump’s and his party’s promises on Court nominations.
The point, I think, is obvious. No one need argue that Trump’s tiny margin of victory in the Electoral College—and his decisive defeat in the popular vote—renders his Presidency illegitimate. But the GOP made very clear that they wanted to give the American public a voice in the process. Democrats should, likewise, make it very clear that the Republican party must listen to that voice. Trump must nominate a moderate. If he won’t, the Democrats should filibuster and force McConnell to choose between, on the one hand,
the nuclear option* getting rid of it for Supreme Court confirmation and, on the other, convincing Trump to choose a more bipartisan candidate.
There’s a larger issue here. Democrats have every right to use Clinton’s “mandate” as an integral part of their message when they oppose extremist Republican policies. And where they can hoist the Republicans by their own rhetorical petard? All the better.
*See Emmryss’ comment.