With Mitch McConnell, You Can Never Be Cynical Enough

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We haven’t had much to say about the grinding inevitability of Neil Gorsuch, other than to argue that the doomed filibuster was the right thing to do. We should never forget that Mitch&co (especially the sanctimonious Orrin Hatch), nullified the 2012 election while speaking self-righteously about preserving voter rights to determine a Supreme Court justice. It was nauseating, and could be seen as a death-blow to democracy.

The Gorsuch hearings have been an exercise in craven cynicism, with Republicans outraged that Dems even dare question Neil Gorsuch, as if he floated down from Judicial Heaven, untouched be petty partisan politics, and not been someone involved in the far-right since he was born. And they were even more cynically outraged that the Democrats might dare try to question Presidential prerogative. It was as if they all knew that they had no case, but if they shouted loudly enough with enough constitutional offense warbling their vocal cords we would forget how laughable it was.

This wasn’t hard to predict. In fact, right after the election, the Times ran a ludicrous story titled “Hard Choice For Mitch McConnell: End the Filibuster or Preserve Tradition”.

We said then:

Let me answer that for you: he’s going to end the filibuster.

The Times describes him as someone who believes strongly in traditions, somehow managing to reconcile that with his immediately blocking the President’s right to choose a Supreme Court justice, and also the completely unprecedented obstruction of Barack Obama’s entire Presidency. It also talks about how he was dismayed at Reid dismantling the judicial filibuster after their (again) unprecedented obstructions, as if it was a matter of principle, and not, say, petulance at not being able to continue their (again) unprecedented obstruction of the President’s rights.

So yeah, I think there is going to be one filibuster of bill or maybe when Trump nominates Michele Bachmann for the Supreme Court, and Mitch will appear on TV, and say that it with sadness that he has to do this, but the Democrats have no respect for Presidential prerogative, and are ignoring “President Trump’s overwhelming victory, and the will of the American people” (never mind that Trump lost that metric). And then the filibuster will be gone, and the media will say “well, the Democrats should have reached across the aisle!”

And again: all this was easy to predict, which is what makes it even more depressing. Still, I was wrong about one thing. I thought Mitch would do fake sadness, and not fake anger. I wasn’t cynical enough. Here’s what he actually said.

“This is the latest escalation in the left’s never-ending judicial war, the most audacious yet,” Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, said after describing Democratic opposition in the past to Judge Robert H. Bork and Justice Clarence Thomas. “And it cannot and it will not stand. There cannot be two sets of standards: one for the nominees of the Democratic president and another for the nominee of a Republican president.”

What are you supposed to do? How do you respond to that? It’s impossible. You’re left sputtering, and somehow you look like you’re on an equal level of childishness. It’s insane, and it is what is running the country.

Although I admit I may have misspoke when I said that he was faking anger. I think their cognitive dissonance is so fine-tuned that they actually believe that a foredoomed filibuster is somehow an escalation over not even meeting with the nominee, much less giving him a hearing. Like the kid on The Simpson’s who doesn’t know if he is being sarcastic anymore, they don’t know if they are legitmately angry or just a mobious strip o cynicism.

Reminder: Call Your Senator And Tell Them To Vote No On Justice Gorsuch


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Seriously, get on the horn


One way or the other, Neil Gorsuch will be the next Supreme Court justice. If the Democrats try to filibuster, Mitch McConnell will, with “deep sadness at this unprecedented assault on Presidential prerogative”, get rid of the filibuster. Or, knowing this, and knowing that Gorsuch is generally popular, will keep their powder dry, and maybe have some protest votes against him, but will largely let him pass through.

But they shouldn’t. The answer to Gorsuch should be the what Michael Corleone offered to Senator Geary: nothing. Gorsuch should not get one single Democratic vote.

This is partly a matter of politics (we have to fight everything about Trumpism to make sure that none of this is normalized and to get out the vote in midterms and local elections), but also, mostly, principle. It’s not just that this seat belongs to Merrick Garland. It’s that, in denying President Obama his right to nominate a Supreme Court justice, the Republican overturned the 2012 election.

There’s no other word for it: they nullified the election, trampled on the will of voters in the biggest display of contempt for the union since Wallace, or possibly the Civil War. In 2012, by a wide margin, voters elected Barack Obama to a four-year term. Everyone votes knowing that there is always the chance of a Supreme Court seat opening up. Mitch McConnell saw that he had a chance to overthrow the election and literally reduce Obama’s term to three years, and he took it. This wasn’t legally treason, but it was a moral assault on our democracy.

And they won, thanks to the slave-state empowerment of the Electoral College. And now they get to put on an extremely, overwhelmingly conservative justice, against the will of the majority of voters in two straight elections. And they will do so, and the nation will suffer.

Over at Slate, the incomparable Dahlia Lithwick talks about teeth-breaking GOP hypocrisy during the hearings, insulted as they are that anyone would even question Gorsuch. (“GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch lectured the Judiciary Committee about the fact that the Senate ‘owes the president deference over his judicial nominees.’ Hearing this, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont about fell out of his chair.”)

We have to expect their cynicism. We have to be willing to stand up to their calculated outrage (which probably isn’t “phony”, per se; cognitive dissonance rules all). We have to let our Senators know that they aren’t in a hearing for Gorsuch, as we normally understand it. They are in a hearing for Merrick Garland’s seat, which was stolen through a subversion of democracy.

So call your Senator. Tell them you support them voting NO on Gorsuch, and not because of any reprehensible position of the other. That’s important, but in a way incidental, because a right-wing Scalia-y Justice is the outcome of the crime, not the crime itself. Give our Senators the strength and backing to protest this outrage against our very democracy.

A hard right court can destroy environmental pushback, end labor, and annihilate civil rights. Our country will be changed in ways it is hard to imagine. But it already has: the idea of a Presidential term was suddenly subject to a political gamble. That hits at the basis of our country. Tell your Senator to fight back against it. We might not win, but it’s how the fight can start.