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What Part of This Do Democrats Not Understand

Republicans are sending very obvious signals that they will never put any Biden nominee on the Supreme Court. Yet Democrats do nothing.

Mitch McConnell speaking in the Senate
C-SPAN

Today, Mitch McConnell said what we already knew to be true: if Republicans get anywhere near power, they will never confirm any of Joe Biden’s big judicial nominees, probably ever.

There’s no need to rehash McConnell’s awfulness. He’s been playing this game, quite successfully, since 2016. There is a 6-3 Republican Supreme Court thanks to his particular set of skills, and he wants to maintain his winning streak. It seems doubtful he’d let all but a sliver of Biden nominees get onto the lower courts either. Why should he? He’s gotten this far.

His comments do make you wonder, though, about the Democratic Party. Watching the Democrats right now is like watching someone being slowly strangled by a python, and you’re screaming “python! Good god, the python!” And the person looks around and kind of shrugs and is like “yes, this snake is a bit of a problem, isn’t it, but hasty decision-making will get us nowhere” and you’re screaming “what the fuck are you talking about it’s a PYTHON, the python is going to strangle you and then you will be dead, because of the python!” And the person is just like “well that’s one point of view.” (Do not fact check me on the python science here, just go with it.)

The point here is that the Democrats are being confronted with very very obvious flashing red lights and sirens and, what the hell, let’s throw in a foghorn. Mitch McConnell is being admirably honest about his intentions: if he gets his hands on the Senate again, that will be that.

A Democratic Party worthy of support would be moving on this, quick. It would be expanding the membership of the Supreme Court, now, and it would be killing the filibuster and expanding voting rights to make it harder for Senate Republicans to twist the system to their advantage. And yet the Democratic response to this is either to do nothing or to make things even worse. Joe Biden started a phony commission about the future of the Supreme Court which is virtually designed to punt on the question of expanding the court’s membership. Stephen Breyer, rather than do the right thing and get the hell off the bench, is going around giving thinly-veiled speeches about how the court is doing just fine and nothing needs to change, including his presence. The Democratic Senate is its usual graveyard, and Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that she won’t countenance any legislative attempts to expand the court.

Meanwhile, Democrats are hanging on to a majority by the merest thread. Forget 2022—right this second, just one Democratic senator has to die or resign for McConnell to get a chance at controlling the Senate agenda even more than he already does. And the Supreme Court is potentially piling up a hellish slate of cases while Democrats fail to take any action.

What about this situation do Democrats not understand? As with voting rights, and a host of other issues, they are sitting around twiddling their thumbs while Republicans move at light speed to solidify their undemocratic grip on power. As of this writing, about three or four hours after McConnell’s statement, the Senate Democratic Twitter account has made no mention of what he said. Neither has Chuck Schumer. Did Senate Democrats not see what McDonnell said? Do they not care?

To answer my own questions: yes, they do see what is happening, and no, they don’t care—at least not enough. This cannot all be laid at Joe Manchin’s feet. He is a major impediment, but he speaks for many other people within the party who fear institutional upheaval far more than they fear the consequences of untrammeled GOP rule. The Democrats, as a party, are simply not serious enough about what is at stake here. They are blinded by their loyalty to the established mechanisms of American party democracy, even though those mechanisms are failing them constantly. In this way, they are the true conservative party in America. There are no excuses.