I Double Dog Dare You, Republicans
I miss you already, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I really do. This past Friday we lost a true legend- a champion of women’s rights and an advocate for the disenfranchised. And even though she was a diminutive Jewish woman who had spent the past twenty-seven years as a Supreme Court justice, arguably the nerdiest job in the country, she had grown into something of a cultural icon, a hip hero for women everywhere with more street cred than a Jay-Z album. She was the Notorious R.B.G.- a figure of equality, decency, respect, and more than anything, integrity. I just wish that the Senate Republicans who now want to replace her had any clue what that last word even means.
I’m going to warn you now: This is a special edition of TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less, and I have no intention whatsoever of sticking to 1000 words. This topic is far too important, and Justice Ginsburg deserves absolutely nothing less. And to be honest, I simply have way too much to say about the sickening hypocrisy of Senate Republicans who have turned on their own stated positions from just four short years ago, all in the hopes that the American public, particularly their base, is just plain too stupid and uninformed to hold them accountable for their political shenanigans. Their unabashed 180 on the issue of appointing Supreme Court justices in an election year, when it is clear that the only thing that has changed is the race and party of the president, is a direct affront to the intelligence of the American people. They may be hoping that you are too stupid to hold them accountable, hoping that half of America has developed amnesia over the past four years due to some form of blunt force trauma, but that’s what this column is here for: to expose TRUTH and show these Trump sycophants to be the political charlatans that they really are.
Back in 2016, just four short years ago, Senate Republicans refused to even have a hearing for Obama appointee Merrick Garland even though justice Antonin Scalia died on 2/16/16 and Garland was nominated on 3/16/16. That was 240 days before the presidential election that saw Trump win the presidency despite losing the popular vote. In fact, on July 20 of that year, Garland broke the 100-year-old record of 125 days for the longest gap between a Supreme Court nomination and confirmation. Garland’s nomination would sit for 293 days without so much as a hearing, the court languishing in the dilemma of having just eight jurors and thus being liable to potential 4-4 votes, before finally failing with Trump’s inauguration. Their rationale, at the time, was that the upcoming president, whoever that might turn out to be, should choose the Supreme Court nominee as that would better represent the will of the American voters. Even though that election was still eight months away, Republican after Republican got up in front of Congress and the national news media and suggested that allowing the sitting president to name a Supreme Court justice in the months before an election was tantamount to depriving American voters of their say in the political process. Almost as a unified voice they beat that drum, referring frequently to the “Biden rule” (even though it is not a rule at all and is actually just an excerpt from a speech Biden gave in 1992). Voters, Republicans said at that time, should be able to factor that vacancy into their evaluation of whom they would vote for in the presidential race. At no point (and please look this up and try to prove me wrong!) did any of these assholes even suggest that the make-up of the Senate at the time or the political affiliation of the current president be considered a factor in this determination, just that the precedent going forward should unequivocally be that a president should not be allowed to nominate a Supreme Court justice once the legislative session had begun in the same year as a presidential election. Period.
Ah, but that was so 2016. Now, it’s 2020, and the Republicans have their guy in the White House, and guess who is singing a different tune? Just in case you have any failing memory of what these Republican Senators said in 2016 or doubt the veracity of these being brought back against them in 2020, I have posted a full list of their comments at the end of this article, but let me include a few choice ones right here. For example in 2016, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said, “I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in on who should make a lifetime appointment that could reshape the Supreme Court for generations. This wouldn’t be unusual. It is common practice for the Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term, and it’s been nearly 80 years since any president was permitted to immediately fill a vacancy that arose in a presidential election year.” Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) suggested, “I strongly agree that the American people should decide the future direction of the Supreme Court by their votes for president and the majority party in the U.S. Senate.” But my favorite comes from none other than human Trump puppet, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), “I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.” Oh, trust me, Lindsey, I’m planning on it, because words actually do mean something, and just like I teach my own kids, I believe in holding people to the statements and promises they make. Oh, but Graham actually doubled down on those comments in 2018 during the confirmation of Bret Kavannaugh, “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.” So just what has changed since then, Lindsey? Hmmmm…..
Apparently, the only thing that has changed since 2016 is that many of these same Senators have had a spine removal surgery that have left them as gutless as a jellyfish. Majority leader Mitch McConnell has already proclaimed that the Senate will vote on a Trump nominee and many Senate Republicans, including Lindsey “Use My Words Against Me” Graham, have since come out supporting this proposal. Right now, the Senate has more flip-flops than a Florida beach at high tide. Some Republicans have used the preposterously flimsy excuse that they should do this because they have control of the Senate and the Presidency and that this thus represents the will of the American people. Problem is, though, that Trump actually lost the popular vote, the most recent election in 2018 saw a blue wave that completely redefined the power of the House (generally considered a much better watermark for the current stance of the electorate given that all seats are voted on every two years rather than four or six), and most projections have republicans losing control of the Senate after the November elections. No, Republicans know darn well that this does not represent the will of the American people, which is precisely why they want to railroad through a nominee and thus steal another Supreme Court seat before all of them are joining the unemployment lines in January.
Still others defend this power grab as simply being politics. As one person wrote to me on social media, “This is just how politics is. Get used to it!!!!!” No, thank you. I will not just “get used to it”. I prefer to live in a country predicated upon honor, decency, and integrity, where the rules apply evenly to everyone and where people do what is right rather than what is expedient, even when it is detrimental to their own aims. I believe in leaders that put country and righteousness before party. Apparently, Senate Republicans fail to grasp that idea.
And don’t give me the “Democrats would do the same thing” argument. You can’t just throw that crap out there and hope it will stick against the wall. It is pure hypothetical nonsense, and I challenge any of you out there to show me where Democrats have engaged in this kind of political hypocrisy, changing the rules over and over again just to suit their own interests. Democrats did not write or even agree with the preposterous rule you established in 2016, and they still don’t now, but if that was the precedent you set then, it is vital to a healthy democracy that the same standard be applied now. Or as Obama so brilliantly put it, “Four and a half years ago, when Republicans refused to hold a hearing or an up-or-down vote on Merrick Garland, they invented the principle that the Senate shouldn’t fill an open seat on the Supreme Court before a new president was sworn in. A basic principle of the law — and of everyday fairness — is that we apply rules with consistency, and not based on what’s convenient or advantageous in the moment. The rule of law, the legitimacy of our courts, the fundamental workings of our democracy all depend on that basic principle.”
No, the Senate Republicans pushing for a confirmation hearing after refusing to even have a hearing for Garland in 2016 are the worst kind of political hypocrites. They are that annoying sore loser you used to play games with as a kid but who would always make up or change the rules anytime they were losing. As soon as you would go to collect your $200 after passing ”Go”, they would turn to you and say that you had to give half of it to Free Parking if you had any houses or hotels on your property. You would argue over it and ask them to show you this in the rules, but they would refuse, saying that it was “understood” or “how my family plays”. Exacerbated, you would finally concede. The next week, however, when the roles were reversed and you enacted the same rule, they would say they had no idea what you were talking about and emphatically point to the rules, saying it wasn’t in there and demanding you follow the written rules not any understood or family rules. Though you really wanted to punch them square in the face, you eventually just grew tired of their bs and refused to play with them anymore, but real adult life isn’t so easy. In modern-day politics, we have someone like Trump who just kicks the whole game over whenever he’s about to lose.
But fret not, little sparrow of truth and righteousness, still there is hope. 62% of Americans believe that the Senate should not have confirmation hearings to fill RBG’s Supreme Court vacancy until after the next president is inaugurated in January. That is an eye-popping number that suggests growing discontent and awareness of this shameless hypocrisy. And the best part is that many of these same self-serving douchebags are up for re-election this year. Take Cory Gardner in my star of Colorado, for example. In 2016, he refused to allow a confirmation vote on Garland, saying, “I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision.” But now Gardner suggests that he will support a Trump nomination, completely reversing his own words from just four years ago. But in a tightly-contested election (most polls have Hickenlooper ahead by single digits), this is just the type of duplicity and abuse of the public trust that could cost Gardner the election. Hickenlooper should spend every last one of his campaign ads between now and November reminding the voting public of Colorado about Gardner’s hypocrisy. If I were Hick’s campaign manager, I would create a commercial that juxtaposed Gardner’s two contradictory statements from 2016 and now and just end with this line, “Cory Gardner- you just don’t know what he’s going to lie to you about next.”
Because that is exactly what senators like Gardner are facing. Embattled in tight races that have their own political fate twisting in the wind, there is a growing list of incumbent Republicans (McSally-Ariz, Tillis- N.C., Collins- ME, Daines- MT, Ernst- Iowa, Perdue- GA, Gardner- CO) who could very well end up losing their own seats in the Senate just to push through a Supreme Court nominee. Given the outpouring of support for RBG and Ginsburg’s own words upon her deathbed that “I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” trying to supplant the will of the American public and ramrod through a Trump nominee despite the clear hypocrisy involved might very well end up being political suicide. In the end, Republicans might get their Supreme Court Justice but lose the presidency and the Senate in the process.
After all, Republicans currently have a 3 seat majority in the Senate. That’s a pretty thin margin. An issue like this could and should be used against them as voters have the right to expect their elected officials to apply the laws evenly, not however it best suits them. Voters should not feel lied to and violated by politicians who state a principle that you cant nominate justices during an election year, but then refuse to adhere to their own stated standard once the roles are reversed. For many, this is just the type of dirty politics and self-interest they have grown weary of and why they have come to distrust politicians. But this act will give them a clear choice. Vote for a Democrat or vote for a lying, cheating hypocrite who wants to steal your health care and right to choose what happens to your body.
So go ahead Republicans: vote to confirm Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee. I dare you. I double dog dare you. But don’t say I didn’t warn you. That choice is fraught with peril because you do so at the risk of awakening the American public from their bewildered stupor and finally alerting them to how one party does political business in this country, how one party believes them to be fools who can be lied to time after time only to blithely forget their crimes and allow them to victimize them once more. Go ahead and call Americans stupid right to their faces. Go tell the millions of RBG supporters out there that they can go fuck themselves and screw the dying wish of a champion of women’s right. Go rig the system for your own gain one last time because I’m guessing that the people of this country have had enough. Enough of your bullshit games. Enough of your lies to the American people. Enough of your subversion of the will of the American people. Enough. And when the people have spoken in November, then and only then will you finally understand what WE mean when we say, a government “of the people, by the people, and FOR the people.”
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com
2016: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas): “It has been 80 years since a Supreme Court vacancy was nominated and confirmed in an election year. There is a long tradition that you don’t do this in an election year.”
2018: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.): “If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election.”
2016: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.): “I don’t think we should be moving on a nominee in the last year of this president’s term – I would say that if it was a Republican president.”
2016: Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.): “The very balance of our nation’s highest court is in serious jeopardy. As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will do everything in my power to encourage the president and Senate leadership not to start this process until we hear from the American people.”
2016: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa): “A lifetime appointment that could dramatically impact individual freedoms and change the direction of the court for at least a generation is too important to get bogged down in politics. The American people shouldn’t be denied a voice.”
2016: Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.): “The campaign is already under way. It is essential to the institution of the Senate and to the very health of our republic to not launch our nation into a partisan, divisive confirmation battle during the very same time the American people are casting their ballots to elect our next president.”
2016: Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.): “In this election year, the American people will have an opportunity to have their say in the future direction of our country. For this reason, I believe the vacancy left open by Justice Antonin Scalia should not be filled until there is a new president.”
2016: Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.): “The Senate should not confirm a new Supreme Court justice until we have a new president.”
2016: Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.): “I think we’re too close to the election. The president who is elected in November should be the one who makes this decision.”
2016: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio): “I believe the best thing for the country is to trust the American people to weigh in on who should make a lifetime appointment that could reshape the Supreme Court for generations. This wouldn’t be unusual. It is common practice for the Senate to stop acting on lifetime appointments during the last year of a presidential term, and it’s been nearly 80 years since any president was permitted to immediately fill a vacancy that arose in a presidential election year.”
2016: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.): “I strongly agree that the American people should decide the future direction of the Supreme Court by their votes for president and the majority party in the U.S. Senate.”