If the Republican Party and their leader Donald Trump wants to take over the country entirely, as it appears they've wanted to do for the better part of a decade of utter failure to participate in governing, let them have it. And let the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch be the point at which they do so. And let them, and by them I include all of us, suffer the consequences of ending the American Experiment.
Judge Gorsuch is an eminently qualified judge and has the credentials and temperament to be a Justice of the Supreme Court. No argument there. But so does Merrick Garland. The argument that a qualified nominee doesn't even deserve the courtesy of a hearing, simply because the presidential primary season is upon us is about the shallowest and arbitrary standards that could be applied to such an important appointment. There is no official start to the primaries and as a practical matter the race for president never ends anymore. Donald Trump has already filed his papers for 2020. Does that mean the race is already officially on? If so, then by the McConnell rule, no hearings should be given to any SCOTUS nominee. The people should be left to decide in 2020.
Well, isn't THAT absurd? Welcome to American politics in 2017.
It's true that the Democrats started all this foolishness with Supreme Court nominees going back to 1987 when they rejected Judge Robert Bork on ideological grounds even though by any measure he was a thoroughly qualified nominee. And then the dems did it again on a cabinet appointment by defeating the nomination of John Tower as Secretary of Defense because of allegations of drunkenness; an allegation which would have disqualified as much as 75% of all politicians at any given moment.
Since then these nomination fights have been escalated in a tit for tat manner for a payback that seems to have no end. It has escalated on both sides, finally culminating with the humiliation of Judge Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The problem now is that there is no standard by which to determine when or even whether to consider important appointees and under what circumstances should that appointee be approved.
My opinion has always been that unless a nominee simply isn't qualified for the position (Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education for example, Harriet Miers for Supreme Court) or has egregious character flaws (white supremacist G. Harrold Carswell for SCOTUS by Nixon in 1970), they should be confirmed. Elections have consequences and the Senate has a duty to see that all positions that the President must fill are indeed filled in as expeditious a manner as possible.
But that is no longer the case. Although both sides have plenty of blame for getting us here, it's the GOP that took it to the limit with their shabby treatment of Judge Garland. Accordingly, the Democrats in the Senate must stage a final stand via filibuster thereby refusing to allow a final hearing on Judge Gorsuch.
Gorsuch may very well be the least offensive choice that Trump could have made from the list of judges he put out during the campaign. But it's not relevant. The seat in question was formerly occupied by Antonin Scalia, a Justice who's extreme and questionable jurisprudence has been white-washed because he was such a delightful guy to be around. Whomever Trump would nominate next - since he's a spiteful shit he'd surely follow up with the most odious choice he can find - would really only be replacing like with like. It's just a matter of the nominee's personal conviviality.
The only option the Republicans would have would be to invoke the so-called "nuclear option". Currently, 60 votes are required in the Senate to cut off debate on Supreme Court nominees. It used to be the case with all nominees until several years ago when the Republicans in the minority had so bottled up the process of filling the federal bench, that Harry Reid was left with little option but to change the rule for all except the Supreme Court. The Republicans effectively shut down the process for the Supreme Court while in the majority last year, and now the Democrats should force them to decide if they really want full responsibility for everything that happens in American government or if it's finally time for a return to the usual give and take which has been the hallmark of our politics for over two centuries.
It's a risky move of course, but no more risky than those taken by the GOP for the better part of a decade with great success. Should any Justice from Kennedy and left (Ginsburg and Breyer most significantly) die or retire before the Dems have a chance to retake the Senate in 2018 or the White House in 2020, the court will either dwindle in numbers (if the nuclear option is not invoked) or be heavily populated with the most outrageous possible nominees.
Of course, if McConnell DOES invoke the nuclear option, should the Dems retake the Senate and the White House by 2020, AND the Justices on the left hold on, a liberal era of jurisprudence will rise and fly for generations to come. I say take that chance because the alternative is darkness no matter what.