Typically, when a Supreme Court Justice dies, the sitting president gets to pick his or her replacement. While a vote is held in the Senate to confirm the pick, the president’s choice is almost always honored. Supreme Court appointments are for life, so one new Justice can shift the balance of the court for decades.
When hardline conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died in February of 2016, Democrats across the country shook in excitement at the prospect of then-President Barack Obama getting another pick for the Supreme Court. The reality of what happened is something that those same Democrats will look back on in anger for years to come.
Merrick Garland is a moderate that at one time had been praised by both Democrats and Republicans. Senior Senate Republican Orrin Hatch has been on record praising Garland on multiple occasions, once calling him “… a fine man”, but claiming that President Obama would never nominate him because he was a moderate. When Obama did nominate Garland, the Republican establishment quickly changed tune.
It was an election year, and this one time consensus pick was another monstrous choice from the radical Obama Administration. The GOP stonewalled for a year, and after Donald Trump’s surprise victory, rammed now Justice Neil Gorsuch through the nomination process in April of 2017. In that same time period, they used the nuclear option, and the standard vote threshold was lowered from two-thirds of the Senate to a simple majority in order for Gorsuch to be confirmed. Garland was never even granted a hearing.
This past June, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy resigned from his position. Kennedy was a swing voter, his vote often being the swaying decision for cases favoring both sides of the aisle. With his replacement, conservatives would hold a majority on the Supreme Court for decades to come. Much to the alarm of proponents of laws like Roe v. Wade.
On July 9, several weeks after Kennedy’s resignation, President Trump announced Brett Kavanaugh as his pick to fill the vacancy left in Justice Kennedy’s seat.
Kavanaugh has faced stiff opposition and controversy since his nomination. He’s held conflicting stances on several hot button issues. One of which is Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling giving women access to abortion.
Several Senate Republicans have weighed in on the issue, saying they would not confirm the appointment if Kavanaugh was anti-Roe. While Kavanaugh has claimed during his ongoing appointment hearings that Roe is a settled precedent, a secret letter published by the New York Times finds him saying the opposite.
According to the Times, Kavanaugh considered publishing an op-ed stating, “I’m not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent…”
Another issue plaguing Kavanaugh is his stance on indictments of sitting presidents. While he was gung ho about trial and prosecution during Bill Clinton’s scandals, Kavanaugh has since changed his tone.
In an article written for the Minnesota Law Review in 2009, he wrote against criminal investigations and prosecutions of sitting presidents, claiming that such action would neuter the powers of the executive branch.
In a time when the current president faces increasing scrutiny and pressure from an investigation into his alleged ties to the Russian Government, Kavanaugh’s nomination looks particularly suspicious.
Democratic lawmakers received a letter from California college professor Dr. Christine Blasey Ford earlier in the summer. The letter details an account when Kavanaugh attempted to assault her at a party when she was 15.
A drunken 17-year-old Kavanaugh, along with friend Mark Judge, cornered Ford into a bedroom. From there Kavanaugh pinned Ford to a bed and began to grope and grind on her while attempting to rip her clothes off. Judge stood by watching. When Ford screamed for help, Kavanaugh cupped his hand over her mouth. At some point, Judge jumped on top of the two of them. This sent all three rolling off the bed. From here, Ford escaped and ran out of the room. She kept the story to herself until 2012, when she shared it with her couples therapist.
Republicans and Kavanaugh were critical of the story, claiming that it was fake news from an anonymous source. In response to this, Ford sat down with the Washington Post for an interview dismantling that claim.
The Post ran the story this past weekend, and the reaction from the GOP has been split. A handful are pushing to postpone the vote or calling for Ford to testify, while some are claiming that, as he was only 17 at the time, Kavanaugh should be forgiven and confirmed. Others say that it’s all lies and Ford doesn’t have the guts to testify. Of all the excuses, the latter was recently shot down, as a lawyer for Ford has confirmed that she would be willing to testify.
It’s ironic to me that the GOP are finding themselves in a similar situation that Democrats have dealt with in recent years. On one hand, they’re heading into midterm elections with a president that’s popular with their base but infuriates their opposition.
This comes while dealing with the fact that his own popularity isn’t shared with the rest of the members of his own party, proven by the stunning defeats they’ve suffered in recent special elections. On the other hand, they’ve got a Supreme Court nomination in an election year. The last time this happened, they fought tooth and nail over it. They said that any court nominations should be postponed until after the election. Now they find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
Should the GOP ram through this sycophantic, attempted-rapist and further incense a mobilized and wrathful opposition? Or bend to the will of the moderates and shoot down the vote, facing the ire of a base that has already shown that they will leave candidates that aren’t Donald Trump out to dry. Given their hyper-partisan and hypocritical behavior the past few years, Brett Kavanaugh is the tainted nominee that they deserve.