Supreme Court Opening Offers Republican Elites A Chance at (Slight) Redemption

Reed Cleland, Staff Writer

Supreme Court nominations are one of the president’s most integral constitutional duties, one that is to be carried out with the advice and consent of the Senate. In the era of heightened political polarization, that process has been shaded by partisan hues and ripe for bruising political combat across hundreds, if not thousands, of relevant factions with a stake in the process. The players are not only one president, one vice-president and 100 senators, but also dozens of mobilized interest groups, advocacy organizations, policy think tanks, law firms, constitutional intellectuals and social movements, according to the New York Times. 

One might expect that as Republican and Democratic elites have drifted further apart on the ideological spectrum (albeit Republicans drifting further to the right than Democrats to the left) over the previous three decades, Supreme Court nominations might have become enveloped in the polarized atmosphere. Yet the Republican Party, in particular, has aggravated the process in its post-triangulation parliamentary strategy of shoot-the-hostage, where no-holds-barred disruption tactics have become standard party procedure. 

Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s refusal to bring then-President Barack Obama’s nominees to the Senate floor for a vote was not an aberration. Rather, it was the product of the Republican Party’s long history of indulging in meta-parliamentary strategies which have incentivized not only extended periods of internal disruption but also a certain patronization of the party’s blue-collar base and swing voters. As Forbes reports, this has been exemplified, time and again, by the party’s willingness to provoke extended federal shutdowns over budgetary feuds and debt ceiling negotiations, episodes which benefit no one and least of all the voters who have supported the Make America Great Again agenda in the hope of some material self-benefit. 

The Republican Party has long abandoned major efforts to construct Congressional coalitions in support of bipartisan goals, including the confirmation of Supreme Court justices. A safe assumption is that most of the American people would desire Supreme Court justices who are committed to those legalistic notions which both parties tend to espouse whenever a confirmation falls on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda – “the rule of law,” “originalism” and “independent-minded,” to name a few. Certainly all of those sound appealing and somehow emblematic of the mythic Americanism which delicately balances the forces of egalitarianism and individual liberty in one basket.

As President Biden prepares to select his nominee for the Supreme Court, a process which is resurrecting the lost spirit of Reconstruction in a way which is both admirable and necessary, the least that Republican Senators can do is recall that theirs was once the party which championed civil rights and multiracial integration in the mid-twentieth century. The Republicans, and not the Democrats, cemented the coalition which drove the 1957 and 1964 Civil Rights Bills, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, through Congress and into law. 

According to The Guardian, certain Republican senators have suggested that the Democratic Party is kow-towing to the social pressures of ascriptive identity politics, affirmative action, and wokism (as if all of these words mean the same thing) in upholding Biden’s commitment to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer with a Black woman of unquestionably equivalent qualifications. Yet President Ronald Reagan just as eagerly touted his commitment to nominate the first woman to the Supreme Court, which he fulfilled. George W. Bush endorsed affirmative action for Corporate America and oligarchic billionaires like George Soros, Sheldon Adelson, and Warren Buffett when he nominated current Chief Justice John Roberts, the deciding vote in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), according to The New Yorker. As for the wokism accusation, well, the confirmation of a Black woman to the Supreme Court should indeed be the perfect opportunity for Republicans to prove to the entire American public that racial barriers to entering political or legal career paths do not exist in the United States. Every single one of them should then be all the more enthusiastic to support Biden’s eventual nominee. The dare is on, and there is no time like the present for Republicans to come to the table in good faith. The American people expect it of them.