In a previous piece, I wrote that the Republicans’ shocking refusal to let President Obama fill the Supreme Court vacancy is an effort to steal from millions of Americans who helped re-elect this president won fair and square: namely, the right to have our guy shape the Court if the opportunity should arise.
It is understood by Americans on both the right and the left, I argued, that this is part of what is at stake in a presidential election. We won that power, and now we get to collect our winnings.
The Republicans are not just denying the president his rightful powers, still more fundamentally they are violating the rights of millions of American citizens under the Constitution.
And we are not going to stand for it—so I concluded.
That conclusion, actually, was really a hope expressed as a prediction. We on the liberal side have let these Republicans get away with so much, in recent years, without making them pay for their disgraceful conduct. But the Republicans have now handed us a most opportune moment to rise up, putting together a popular movement to fight the Republicans on this latest, most important form of obstructionism.
This Republican refusal to play their proper role sets up a battlefield we should be glad to fight on. There are two main reasons this fight is opportune:
1) The stakes – whether or not control of the Supreme Court can be shifted from the toxic domination of the right-wingers over to the liberal side – are so high that we would be wise to mobilize ALL our political resources to achieve victory.
The Conservative Five who have prevailed in various 5-4 decisions over the past decade have done great damage to America, and we cannot let this chance to take that power away slip by.
We can certainly hope that President Obama and the Democrats in the Senate will do their part to win this battle. But whether they rise to the occasion or not we the people should help keep attention focused on this issue and intensify the pressure on the Republicans to do the right thing or suffer the political consequences.
Victory either way: either getting the Court majority we’ve earned fair and square, or pummeling the Republicans in public opinion so effectively that they lose both the White House and the Senate, and we then get the Court majority anyway.
2) This latest Republican move opens a window into a whole world of the Republican darkness.
The Republican effort to prevent President Obama from performing the important role which the American people hired him did not, of course, begin with this Supreme Court vacancy. Their across-the-board obstructionism has not only been an affront to this particular president, but it manifests a contempt for the Constitution they’ve taken an oath to protect and defend. And their deliberate disabling of our political system – giving us the least productive Congresses in our history – represents a betrayal of the nation.
This latest move opens all that up to display to the American people. Their power play here about the Supreme Court reveals a political party that puts its own power above everything – no matter the cost to our nation, its political norms, and its most sacred values.
The battle they’ve chosen enables us to expose all that, and in a presidential election year, that could have a powerful impact.
What we should insist on is not just that hearings be held and votes be cast in the Senate. If that’s all we insist on, the Republicans are free to engage in a sham– going through the motions while holding fast to their determination to deny this president his right to name the next justice on the Supreme Court. If that’s all we insist on, they can grant our demands and leave us having won nothing, and allow them to get away with disgraceful conduct yet again.
We should demand not only that they conduct hearings and a vote, but also that they confirm any nominee who is clearly worthy by the traditional criteria: if the president nominates someone who: 1) shows high professional qualifications, 2) possesses good moral character and 3) is in the mainstream of American jurisprudence – the Senate is obliged to confirm.
That is the American tradition — and the implicit rule in the Constitution – regarding how the “advise and consent” role should be performed.
So we should insist not only on their going through the motions, but on their confirming a worthy nominee put forward by the president we elected to have the power to put his stamp on the Court, if an opening arose.
As luck would have it – bad luck for the right, good luck for those who supported the re-election of this president — the opportunity has arisen: their justice has died, while our guy is president.
Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Accepting such loss is part of what is required to “protect and defend” the Constitution. The Republicans’ refusal to accept Barack Obama’s legitimate role as president is — in spirit — a violation of their oath of office.
Let us, as the grassroots, hold their feet to the fire. Let us have a popular movement arise to march onto this battlefield. (Perhaps people could begin organizing a Yuge March on Washington to converge on the Capital in the days before the Senate votes on an Obama nominee.) Let us bring all our forces to bear on this pivotal battle.
The message of this movement should be: “You Republicans have a choice. Either honor your responsibilities under the Constitution, or we will tar you with this betrayal all the way to November when the American people will send you off into oblivion.”