It's Not Hypocrisy - 2020-09-21
I was watching the president of the United States suggest to a mostly maskless crowd that a Democratic congresswoman had married her brother when the news broke that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. The shock of her death sledgehammered a country teetering on an ugly and desperate edge. It came in waves. It wasn't merely the loss to the country, or the sadness that a champion of equal rights had died. Nor was it the fact that an increasingly corrupt Republican Party is very close to forcing through the judicial supermajority it needs in order to lock in minority rule and overturn American women's right to reproductive choice. (You will no doubt hear often in the coming weeks that, of the five conservative Supreme Court justices, four were nominated by presidents who had lost the popular vote.) There was a flashback to the contempt and grief Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing aroused in so many appalled onlookers. And then there was the dread of realizing that a citizenry breaking—financially, politically, even cognitively—under five different kinds of instability was going to have to endure more. We have been in a bad way for a long time, but this is the hurricane on top of the wildfire that follows the earthquake.
What's enraging is that we shouldn't be here. We have institutions and norms and precedents, so what should happen next is almost absurdly plain. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made his thinking on the subject quite clear back in 2016, when Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died in February, nine months before the election. "The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice," he said. "Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president." There shouldn't have been any mystery about what Mitch McConnell—of all people—would do when a Supreme Court vacancy opened up six weeks (rather than nine months) before Election Day of 2020.
And there wasn't. Shortly after Ginsburg's death was announced, McConnell declared his intentions: Trump's nominee would receive a vote in the Senate, and though he left the timing slightly unclear, he has no intention of letting the will of the American people (who have already started voting) determine what should happen. He made quick work of the optimists on Twitter suggesting that he surely wouldn't be so hellbent on total power that he'd risk destroying the country by breaking the precedent he himself had articulated. Wrong. He would. And anyone who took him at his word when he rejected Merrick Garland's nomination was made a fool when he reversed himself on the question of whether (to quote the man himself) "the American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice."