It is quite schoolyardish to yell in defense, “they started it!” But here we are.
To be sure, we might not be able to pinpoint the exact start of the current broad political polarization in the United States, or even which party started to politicize the Supreme Court, but the current GOP could go a long way to de-escalating and healing these divisions by waiting on a SCOTUS confirmation until after the election or, in the case of a Biden win, after his inauguration.
Reason One: The Republicans blocked President Obama’s SCOTUS pick, Merrick Garland, even though it was nine months before the election and not one vote had yet been cast. This was a politically traumatic moment for Democrats. President Obama had a Constitutional right to nominate and confirm, within a reasonable amount of time, the Justice of his choosing. The blocking of that confirmation, for almost an entire calendar year, can be explained by nothing other than political motivations.
There was no doubt that Judge Garland was worthy of the bench, no doubt about his ability or credentials. The Republicans, led by Senator Mitch McConnell, blocked the confirmation only because Garland was nominated by President Obama, the nations first black president, who had been blocked by GOP Congressmen and Congresswomen from doing anything in the previous seven years, because he was a Democrat and they didn’t want to give him a win on anything.
Reason Two: No one “owes” anyone anything, not legally. But doing the right thing here could go a long way to getting this country to begin to heal its divisions. Healing divisions is not in the Constitution. Neither party is held legally to take actions to heal divisions. But the blocking of Judge Garland was another thread sown in the political divide. And waiting to let people vote (indeed, thousands have already voted) would go a long way to cooling down the heat in this country.
Reason Three: Precedent. The Supreme Court decides cases not only on the text of the Constitution itself, but based on the precedents set by previous Supreme Court rulings. Now, it doesn’t work exactly the same way in Congress, but by blocking the confirmation of Garland, the GOP ensured the continued nastiness of political culture in this country and set a precedent for themselves and other parties. Now, by doing a complete one-eighty and reversing themselves, because the President is of their own party, they are creating a confusion of conduct, perpetuating a we-will-do-whatever-we-want style of governance that will continue tit for tat into the future.
I’d like to hear Judge Barrett’s opinion on that precedent.
If Trump wins in November, then Democrats must confirm Judge Barrett. But, if Republicans go through with the confirmation of Judge Barrett before the election, or in a lame duck session, they will have proven themselves not only to be hypocrites, but to care more about their own political prerogatives than about the American people and the future of the American republic.
And give it a rest with the “elections have consequences” argument. The GOP might now lead the Senate and be in the White House, but they are supposed to still represent the entire country, not just their Republican constituents. I didn’t like the saying under Obama, and I don’t like it now. Grow up, be adults, and represent all of us, to the best of your ability.