This week the hearings begin on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court. As they get underway, it will be hard to forget that the seat that Gorsuch may fill became empty during the Obama administration. Obama nominated a moderate to fill the vacancy, and Senator Mitch McConnell simply refused to hold hearings on that nomination.
Senator McConnell had the audacity to maintain that the “people” should decide who should fill this particular vacancy on the Supreme Court. By employing his duplicitous strategy, he managed to shift this appointment from a President who had won the popular vote by a margin of five million votes in 2012 to one who lost the popular vote by a margin of three million votes in 2016.
Nice try Mitch! Let’s call a spade a spade. McConnell’s ploy was a power grab, not a genuflection to democracy. Whether it works or not, it is sure to further deepen the split between conservatives and everyone else in the country. And it is sure to weaken the legitimacy of our institutions.
Where did this attitude come from? I see it as a by-product of the “win at all costs” mentality that McConnell seems to have embraced. It was McConnell, you might recall, who from the outset was among those who engineered the “scorched earth” tactics after Obama was elected in 2008. That in turn, was something we saw in Nixon. Kennedy had a taste for it too (anyone remember his phony assertion that there was a “missile gap”?).
The problem, as I see it anyway, is that this is generally not punished in our system. We experience it, We may even detest it. But it seems to work, at least sometimes. And a charlatan like Trump is banking on it working now.