“Democrats know they don’t have the votes to stop Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch from clearing his Senate confirmation hearing, which begins Monday. But they don’t appear to have a strategy, or even the energy, for a coordinated fight against President Donald Trump’s conservative court pick.
Chalk it up to Trump’s chaotic administration, or to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s low-key approach. Democrats just haven’t treated Gorsuch’s nomination as the kind of high-profile ideological battle that Supreme Court choices traditionally bring about. Even in the days leading up the hearing, it’s felt more like an afterthought on Capitol Hill.
“I hope the questions are good,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told The Huffington Post on Wednesday when asked about her thoughts heading into the hearing. Asked if there are any particular issues she plans to press Gorsuch on, she replied, “Not right now.”
Progressive advocacy groups have been demanding a real fight against Gorsuch, who, as an appellate judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, built a record of opposing reproductive rights, LGBTQ rights, civil rights, workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights and environmental protections.
Led by NARAL Pro-Choice America, 11 organizations sent a letter to Senate Democrats this month torching them for having “failed to demonstrate a strong, unified resistance to this nominee, despite the fact that he is an ultra-conservative jurist who will undermine our basic freedoms…. We need you to do better.”
They also delivered more than 1 million petitions to the Senate urging Democrats “to oppose Donald Trump’s extreme anti-choice Supreme Court nominee.”
Barring something we don’t know yet, Judge Neil Gorsuch will become the next Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Yes, he is very conservative. And, yes, he might well vote against some legal positions that Democrats hold dear, like Roe v. Wade.
But, we can hardly know that yet. Funny things happen when Federal Judges get lifetime appointments to collegial courts and are exposed to equally well-qualified jurists with differing views. Whether we admit it or not, as a former member of a “collegial administrative court,” I can say that the views and jurisprudence, as well as the personalities, of the other jurists, do influence, and sometime change, the outcomes of cases.
Moreover, we had an election in which the existing vacancy at the Supreme Court was a major issue brought up by both parties. And, guess what? The GOP won and the Dems lost. Not enough folks in the right places were motivated by the inevitability of a conservative pick to replace the late Justice Scalia to put Hillary Clinton in office.
While I am by no means a fan of the Trump Presidency, I find his nomination of Judge Gorsuch one of his best and most “Presidential” moves yet. Judge Gorsuch is a serious, scholarly, productive Federal Judge with experience working on a collegial court. He certainly seems to be someone willing to engage in judicial dialogue and carefully consider the views of his colleagues — necessary qualities that were not always present in Justice Scalia’s largely polarizing career.
In any event, one would not reasonably have expected President Trump to appoint Judge Merrick Garland or a Justice Sotomayor, Justice Kagan, or Justice Ginsburg “clone” to the Court, any more than we would have expected Hillary Clinton to appoint someone like Judge Gorsuch.
The groups pushing the Dems to engage in futile obstruction of the Gorsuch nomination, and to “punish” those who fail to submit to their demands are the very same disgruntled progressives and former Bernie supporters who failed to turn out the vote in sufficient numbers to beat Trump in places like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina, and Ohio, states which had voted for Obama and which should have been, but weren’t, “winners” for Clinton.
Yes, “Obstructionist Politics” worked for the GOP. Big time! But the Dems strength is that they are not the GOP. Trying to turn the Democratic Party into the “Tea Party of the Left” is not going to win elections. And, it’s going to take more than miscues by President Trump to get the Dems back in power. The “expose his flaws” campaign theory was proved to be stunningly unsuccessful in the 2016 election. Doubling down on it is going to be equally unsuccessful.
No, the Dems are going to have to do more than oppose and point out Trump’s many, well-known flaws. They are going to have to come up with better programs that the country can afford and “sell” them to the voters, including some who voted for Trump. So far, I haven’t seen much of that, notwithstanding all the opposition energy that has been generated.
Pushing a futile, highly idealogical opposition to Judge Gorsuch is not the way to present yourself as the “grown-up alternative to Trumpism.” And, it is way past time for the Dems to abandon the practice of both parties of using serious and important Federal judgeships as “political footballs.”
Yes, of course, Democratic Senators should ask Judge Gorsuch tough questions. And, of course, any Senator who feels conscience bound to do so should vote against the nomination. But, for reasons of conscience, not in response to an anti-Gorsuch “campaign” being conducted by some leftist groups.
There is no reason for the Dems to be rude or obstructionist during this confirmation process. Do what you have to do, let Justice Gorsuch take his seat, and start working on some alternative programs to what President Trump and the GOP have proposed. Otherwise, Judge Neil Gorsuch will be just the first of many Supreme Court picks for President Trump and the GOP. And, the Dems will have mostly themselves to blame.