Can Senate Democrats Run Out the Clock on Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee?

The death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg should inspire a week of public mourning and reflections on her enduring legacy. With just 45 days to go before an election, there should be bipartisan agreement that choosing her successor is a task left to the victorious presidential candidate and the incoming Senate.

Instead, we are about to witness the Senate version of Game of Thrones. There is no principle here other than raw power politics. The only relevant precedent for what we are about to see is the way that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell held Merrick Garland hostage for 10 months in 2016 to thwart Barack Obama. But now—devoid of embarrassment and reveling in their own hypocrisy—Republicans are pressing for a rush to judgment in the waning days of the Donald Trump’s first (and probably last) term.

At this moment of peril, Democrats and judicial liberals have to face the reality that the tactics they have deployed for three decades against conservative Supreme Court picks have consistently failed.

Earnest letters from 687 law school deans are not going to do the trick. Loud marches upholding Roe v. Wade are doomed to fall on deaf ears. Charges of sexual improprieties failed to derail the confirmations of Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. Even the eventual Senate hearings, with their meticulously framed legal questions, are apt to have minimal impact, aside from giving Kamala Harris time in the spotlight.

But the Democrats have a powerful political argument on their side—fairness. That argument was framed by an independent Senate Republican, Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, in an interview hours before Ginsburg died. Murkowski, who backed McConnell in the Garland fight, told Alaska Public Media, “I would not vote to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. We are 50-some days away from an election.”

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