Now that the judicial filibuster in the U.S. Senate has been nuked, it’s time to look at the political fallout going forward. And for Democrats, the news is all bad. Here are three reasons why Democrats just made a dumb mistake by filibustering Neil Gorsuch.
1. The GOP is now free to put real Scalia-Thomas types throughout the judiciary
The argument for years as to why Republicans needed stealth Supreme Court candidates like David Souter, Anthony Kennedy, and John Roberts (who have all gone on to be disappointments to varying degrees) was the filibuster.
However, now that it’s no longer necessary to get 60 votes for confirmation, there’s no need to appoint another Gorsuch-type whose record on Roe v. Wade is a gaping void. Nor is there anymore need to “play the game” during confirmation hearings, either, by having the “conservative” appointee approvingly repeat progressive talking points back to Democrats in an effort to gain their support.
Since it only requires a simple majority now, the GOP can freely confirm real heirs to Antonin Scalia. Where this could be a real benefit is throughout the federal circuit and district courts, which need an overhaul after decades of stockpiling progressives.
2. Let’s face it: Republicans were never gonna have the stones to partisan filibuster Democrat judicial nominees anyway
There’s literally no tradeoff here for Democrats, because we all know Republicans weren’t gonna have the stones to partisan filibuster in the future anyway. The GOP is the party that actually nominates for president the people who support — and vote for — the Democrats’ most progressive judicial nominees after all (see John McCain).
So this isn’t a case of “what goes around comes around” that benefits Democrats in the future; this is being too smart by half, and negotiating against yourself. In other words, this is a case of Democrats tactically acting like Republicans for once. They needlessly cornered the GOP into a position that forced them to actually draw a line in the sand, which isn’t exactly the GOP’s thing. (They ain’t called the “surrender caucus” for nothing.)
By doing so, Democrats helped set a precedent that will only benefit Republicans from here. For they gave Republicans leverage they never would’ve asserted on their own, while at the same time Democrats gave away leverage they’ve had all along.
3. This literally did nothing to elevate any Democrats politically
Even if you think the “Stand with Rand” and “Make DC Listen” filibusters by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, respectively, were publicity stunts doomed to fail, at the very least both of those events inspired the GOP grassroots and elevated the national profiles of two of the party’s emerging stars.
Unfortunately for Democrats, the Gorsuch filibuster didn’t even do that. For example, the lackluster attempt by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., at filibustering this week didn’t generate nearly the attention Paul and Cruz’s did, even from a more-than-sympathetic media.
At the very least, if you’re going to contrive political theater, have someone who excites your base and could be your future standard-bearer as the face of it. Instead, Democrats came out of a fake fight without any real stars to rally behind. A missed opportunity, especially with the country already seeming to start to tire of President Trump.
In short, the Democrats’ Gorsuch filibuster accomplished more for Republicans than it did for Democrats, because it accomplished nothing for the latter. If this is what the “resistance” looks like, it’s going to have to try a lot harder. (For more from the author of “3 Reasons Democrats Just Made a Dumb Mistake” please click HERE)