The Ratchet

Erick-Woods Erickson

Imagine a world in which Barack Obama, in light of Antonin Scalia’s death, announces to the world that should he replace Scalia it would fundamentally alter the Supreme Court. The Court needs to be protected from further politicization. As a result, he would decline to pick a nominee and let the voters decide which direction to take the country.

Or, imagine if Barack Obama decided that to keep the Court out of politics, he would nominate someone to preserve the then-existing ideological composition of the Court and work across party lines. The next President would undoubtedly have more picks and could potentially alter the trajectory of the Court, but Obama would show real statesmanship and decline.

Either move would have de-escalated the situation and neutralized the Supreme Court as a political campaign issue. But neither happened. Instead, Barack Obama ratcheted it up and made a play to move the Supreme Court left.

With a media willing to push the Democrats’ talking points, Obama said the Senate had an absolute constitutional obligation to consider the nominee, though the Senate’s obligation is advice and consent and the Senate advised it would not entertain a nominee.

The Democrats went for broke anyway and ratcheted up the fight and rhetoric. They failed.

Donald Trump then got elected and nominated Neil Gorsuch for Antonin Scalia’s seat. Gorsuch was no further right than Scalia and, frankly, on criminal rights is to the left of Scalia.

But the Democrats went for broke again and ratcheted up the rhetoric against Gorsuch, a man whose confirmation would do nothing to the ideology of the Court. Still, the hysterics of the left went hysterical, always ratcheting up.

With Kennedy’s departure, again, the ideological composition of the Court would most likely not shift. Kavanaugh is more institutionally conservative — more Roberts than Scalia. The Democrat response? Assassinate Kavanaugh’s character with a careful choreographed media campaign.

NBC News and the rest trotted out Michael Avenatti, the various allegations, etc. Democrats were rarely challenged on the veracity of their claims despite Christine Blaisey Ford having no witnesses. For that matter, none of the alleged victims of Kavanaugh had witnesses, but all had deeply partisan motivations to attack him.

Yet again, things ratcheted up.

It is hard for those not on the right to realize how the Kavanaugh hearings radicalized Republicans in the court fights. Democrats had multiple opportunities to avoid ratcheting things up. They should not be surprised the GOP is now unwilling to defuse the situation.

Frankly, why should they? It is always and without fail the position of the Democrats and their sympathetic friends in the media that they are on the side of righteousness and the GOP is always and forever bad on these and so many other issues. The media collaborated with the Democrats to try to destroy Brett Kavanaugh. No one ever really supported or wanted Obama to de-escalate and defuse the situation. The media collectively and Democrats were jubilant at the thought of the Court shifting left and are now horrified that it might shift right.

My position in 2016 is the same as my position today. The Senate can act or not act. It can confirm or not confirm. It is the Senate’s choice. I opposed Merrick Garland in 2016 and preferred a flat out repudiation of his nomination through a no vote. I support President Trump moving the Court to the right. Republicans promised two things: they’d repeal Obamacare and protect the judiciary from the left. They failed at the former and they better not fail at the latter.

Republicans have a very precise precedent now they need to fight for — it is not just the Democrats who get to ratchet things up. The reality is Joe Biden just this weekend came out as opposed to a court-packing scheme. Ruth Bader Ginsburg opposed it. And the Democrats have called for getting rid of the filibuster for more than a year. So nothing has changed except Ginsburg is dead, the GOP controls the White House and Senate, and the GOP should advance a nominee.

You can claim this will harm the country. But Democrats are already burning it down. We should not negotiate with the terrorists and arsonists of the left.

Barack Obama had an opportunity in 2016 to be a statesman and chose to ratchet things up instead. Democrats had their chance and have only made Supreme Court fights nastier and nastier. Playing to the consciences of Republican senators now, after setting the bridges on fire, is a bit much.

Erick Erickson’s Confessions of a Political Junkie

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