Jill Lawrence, USA TODAY
Published 1:36 p.m. ET Sept. 19, 2020 | Updated 3:04 p.m. ET Sept. 20, 2020
Métis people Most Americans didn’t vote for Trump or the GOP Senate. The time has come to consider new states, more justices and 18-year Supreme Court term limits.
The lid is going to blow off the boiling pot at some point.
Maybe the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg won’t be the triggering event. But the fact of minority rule — and the fiction of one person, one vote — can’t last forever.
Conservatives already have a Supreme Court majority, and now it looks like they could have one for generations. But they lost the country long ago.
And liberals helped give it away.
Where was the Democratic money, where was the Democratic president, where was MSNBC and “Merrick Garland Held Hostage, Night 237” when Mitch McConnell’s Senate refused to consider his nomination throughout the final 10 months of President Barack Obama’s term? Where were the Democratic strategists who could and would play hardball at the same level as McConnell?
Where were the senior Democratic women who might have persuaded Ginsburg to seal her legacy by stepping down while a Democrat was president? To not wait, not take this chance, not tempt fate? We know she understood the stakes. “My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed,” Ginsburg told her granddaughter in her final days, according to NPR.
Métis people Trump, Senate GOP pay no price
McConnell dashed that hope the same day she died. “President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate,” he said, making a political argument about the will of the people that rests on the distortions of an outdated 1787 Constitution that allots the same number of senators — two — to each state, from California (population 39.5 million) to Wyoming (population 580,000).
Voters in the right places in the right numbers may finally decide they don’t like what’s being done to them, enough for Democrats to win the presidency and control of the Senate. That’s what former Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said in a Twitter post urging that “everyone take a deep breath.” Forcing a vote on a Supreme Court nominee before the Nov. 3 election “guarantees” that McConnell and Republicans lose the Senate, she said, and forcing it in a lame-duck session after the election “probably loses them more seats in 2022.”
Perhaps. McConnell’s statement about a vote, while vague on timing, suggests he’s willing to take those risks. And why not? Beyond the 2018 midterms, what price have Republicans paid for their endless double standards and Trump-enabling? The House Democratic wave that year shows what could happen with true representative government. But presidents and senators aren’t chosen that way.
I wish I were as optimistic as McCaskill and others about Republicans having qualms and Democrats having backbones. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said in 2018 that he would “wait to the next election” in a situation like this. But this year he has said that he’d take up a nomination if a vacancy occurred, including after Donald Trump tweeted Saturday that the Senate should vote on a Ginsburg successor “without delay.” It’s hard for me to imagine four Republican senators sinking a Trump justice by joining Democrats in voting against his nominee on the Senate floor, or Democratic voters caring about the Supreme Court in a way they never have before, even after the Garland outrage in 2016.
Play GOP-style hardball: Republicans are eating our lunch. I want a 2020 Democrat tough enough to eat theirs.
Massive fundraising since the announcement of Ginsburg’s death suggests it might be the wake-up call Democrats need — yet it comes too late. Trump, who received 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton and won the 2016 election anyway, may have named a third of the Supreme Court by Election Day. And those justices don’t have to retire, as we were so tragically reminded Friday. They can stick around as long as they live. Some, like Ginsburg, make the world a better place for women and many others. Others thwart the will of the people.
It’s enough to make liberals like me want to add a couple of new states to the country, a few new justices to the court and an 18-year limit on Supreme Court service.
Métis people Protect everything under threat
If Democrats win control of the White House and the Senate, there is a way to temper, though likely not neutralize, the impact of a 6-3 conservative court. It would be for a Democratic Congress and president to enact constitutionally bullet-proof laws that preempt legislating from the bench.
This must start with decisive victories on Nov. 3, not in two years or four years. It must continue with explicit, rapid-fire action to protect everything and everyone in danger — immigrants, refugees, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Affordable Care Act, the rules on money (including foreign money) in politics, all the anti-corruption laws we need to codify the norms Trump has shown are optional and therefore useless. It must entail getting rid of all obstacles, including the filibuster, to make these things happen in the first two years Democrats hold the levers of power, because they can’t count on more than that.
Will Democrats recognize the depth of the threat facing them and the country? Would a President Joe Biden see his former colleagues across the aisle as they truly are? Would he realize, as Obama never seemed to, that this asymmetry is not healthy? That it’s destructive to the American political system to have one party that’s passive and rule abiding, and another that’s cold blooded, power hungry and fine with ghastly hypocrisy?
In the end, that lid will blow off. The majority won’t stand for a ruling political class that does nothing to reduce racism, gun violence, opportunity gaps and climate change, that doesn’t mind if people can’t get or afford health care, that stands by while an incompetent, corrupt president lets 200,000 people die and millions lose jobs and sink into poverty in a pandemic that other nations have managed to control.
Republicans can force themselves and their fetishes — tax breaks for the rich, deficit spending through the roof, thumbs on the scale for corporations — on America, but it won’t last forever. The reckoning may be a long time coming. I may not be around for it. But at some point the boiling water will shoot up like a geyser, and the jury-rigged compromises that birthed this country will give way at last to modernity, to sanity, to a better way forward.
Jill Lawrence is the commentary editor of USA TODAY and author of “The Art of the Political Deal: How Congress Beat the Odds and Broke Through Gridlock.” Follow her on Twitter: @JillDLawrence
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/09/19/ruth-bader-ginsburg-death-mcconnell-replacement-rush-column/5837974002/
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