Is it good that the Democrats won the House? Absolutely.
Does it matter, then, that Republicans held onto the Senate, even gaining a couple more seats in that chamber? Yes. Very much, yes. And the reason has everything to do with judges.
Consider this: All the drama involving Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh took place because a united front of Democrats needed to peel off two Republicans in rejecting him. They failed. If that same nomination arose in the next Senate, however, there wouldn’t even be a controversy.
Republicans would just push him right through with a simple majority. A couple of defections wouldn’t make a difference.
Now realize the GOP will be able to do that with every single judicial vacancy for years to come. Every district judge. Every appellate court judge. Republicans have already been ramming through young (often-unqualified) justices at a breakneck pace. Only a few nominees failed to get through the process and that was only when the candidates’ problems were so off-the-charts bananas that even a Republican or two felt bad supporting them.
The party won’t have those worries anymore.
Even worse? Their majority appears safe enough that it’ll stay in place in 2020 (given which seats are up for re-election). So even if the Democrats win the White House, the Republicans in the majority could simply refuse to vote for any judge nominated by that president, no matter how qualified, since democracy is broken and they don’t give a damn.
It’ll be Merrick Garland redux each and every time.
We’re about to see the damn burst for Federalist Society-backed judicial appointments who reject church/state separation, who oppose abortion, who block LGBTQ rights, who are fine with voter suppression, who aren’t interested in civil rights, etc. The younger the appointments, the longer they’ll be around to undo whatever progress even a Democratic Congress makes.
Charlie Savage of the New York Times explains how serious a problem this is:
… throughout Mr. Obama’s eight years in office, he managed to appoint just 48 judges to the regional courts of appeal. Senate Republicans blocked many of his choices, even in the minority, and then essentially shut down the confirmation process starting in 2015. That hardball strategy left numerous vacancies for Mr. Trump to fill.
“From the narrow perspective of judicial confirmations, yesterday’s elections were a huge success,” Ed Whelan, a conservative commentator on judicial confirmation issues, wrote on the National Review website. “Simply put, it ought to be an easy matter to confirm another outstanding judicial conservative (or two) to the Court. That increased margin, of course, also will make it easier to confirm lower-court judges. That in turn might lead to additional vacancies, as some retirement-eligible judges might decide that now is a good time to take senior status.”
Republicans broke the rules by refusing to consider perfectly fine judges when nominated by a Democrat. Now they’re pushing through ultra-conservative ones even when there’s reasonable opposition. Democrats don’t have the power to stop them. And they may not have it for a long time. And even if they ever get that power, it may be too late to do anything about it.
Blame the people who chose not to vote. Especially the people who refused to vote because they didn’t think the Democrat passed a particular purity test. And blame the people who claim both sides are equally awful. And, of course, blame everyone who voted for a Republican senator and didn’t realize what they were doing.
They’re the people who are so selfish, they’re willing to throw marginalized groups under the bus, via the courts, whether or not they did it intentionally.
(Image via Shutterstock)