The liberal base seems to be elated that Democrats have finally “grown a spine,” to wage an all out war against President Donald Trump. The problem appears to be that they’ve lost their brains in the process.
It comes as little surprise that Democrats would quickly morph into the new “Party of No,” after all, it’s much easier than actually getting down to business and passing legislation. As, Megan McArdle writes for Bloomberg, Democrats are “discovering the sweet, toddler-like joys of just saying ‘no’ to everything.”
“Help Republicans repeal Obamacare? Heck no,” she mockingly writes. “Quietly stand by while Republicans approve an eminently qualified nominee to the Supreme Court? No, no, no!”
But as Republicans quickly learned during their stay in the minority, there are dangers to the indiscriminate use of the word “no.” While it may make enormous sense when it comes to the difficult business of reconfiguring the health care market, where there will inevitably be winners and losers as a result of Democrats’ flawed approach to reform, it’s politically disastrous when used purely as an outgrowth of partisan pique or as a reflexive response to the whims of the most extreme elements of your party.
The latter is exactly what’s happening with Democrats’ foolhardy filibuster of Judge Neil Gorsuch. There are no doubt many Senate Democrats, especially those who are up for reelection in states that Trump won or those with a modicum respect for the institution of the Senate, whose inclination is to support Gorsuch. But the left-leaning elements of the Democrat Party (Bernie Bros et al.) are having none of it. James Arkin and Caitlin Huey-Burns write for RealClearPolitics:
Progressive groups have gone so far as to petition the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on Monday to withhold funding from the handful of Democratic senators who support Gorsuch, even though some of these incumbents from red states are seen as the last vestiges of the party in those areas.
“Not only is the base there, but the politics of the moment demand it. Democrats are looking for members to take a stand,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley, a former top aide to Harry Reid, who altered the filibuster rules in 2013 to approve then-President Obama’s stalled executive appointees. “To the extent there is any peril, it would be struggling to find a way to vote for the guy.”
“Taking a stand” on a well respected nominee simply makes no sense. Firstly, it’s an empty gesture since Republicans appear ready to change the chamber’s rules and confirm Gorsuch anyway. And strategically, why would Democrats want to waste their small bit of political leverage on a popular pick like Gorsuch, especially since it removes the ability to make a more powerful argument if Trump gets to nominate a successor to a liberal justice?
But most importantly, there are no political positives from taking the unprecedented step of filibustering a nominee for associate justice on a mainstream judge like Gorsuch. The USA Today’s editorial board argues:
Gorsuch’s credentials are impeccable: Columbia, Harvard, Oxford, federal and Supreme Court clerkships and a decade on the federal appeals bench. He received a “well-qualified” rating, the highest available, from the American Bar Association. On principles and independence, he has gotten an array of glowing references, including from some Democrats and liberals. Extensive vetting has unearthed no hint of personal scandal.
Heck, Gorsuch—who has deep suspicions about courts’ deference to federal agencies’ design and implementation of broad legislation—could end up being a godsend to Democrats worried about Trump’s executive branch.
It’s clear that Democrats don’t even have the luxury of thinking tactically, or even rationally, about the Gorsuch nomination. Instead, senators are being pushed by progressive organizations to act as angry as the members of those groups feel. As Republicans learned, that energy can do wonders when aimed at certain causes, but can be distracting, or worse, counterproductive, when aimed at others. Gorsuch falls in the counterproductive category. And so, in growing a “spine,” Democrats risk losing their minds.