A fierce melee of a confirmation hearing for new Supreme Court Justice can only help Trump
How so? By keeping the focus on things other than Trump. And helping him keep his many failings out of the spotlight. Especially his disastrous management of the COVID-19 pandemic. Which he likes to pretend didn’t happen and isn’t still happening.
I remember just one week ago today, feeling completely comfortable for the first time with the idea that Joe Biden had a really good chance of managing to actually pull it off. Trump was flailing. He’d utterly run out of answers. Not even satisfactory lies. Almost like he’d so conditioned people to not trust anything they’d finally even stopped trusting him.
And then that night, the world changed forever.
Since then, the focus is completely shifted to a looming battle in the Senate. In which Trump is not really a central player. Once he names his pick for the next Supreme Court Justice, he hands off the baton to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and goes back out rallying.
So if you want to win the election; can’t let the spotlight move to the Senate. How? Don’t have the battle. Yes, it’s important for Democrats to be furious and use that righteous fury to inspire people to vote Trump and every single damn two-faced Republican out of office. But Republicans do have the votes to confirm a new Supreme Court nominee, whatever made up procedural travesty they created and are now having to undo. And Democrats don’t.
Thing is, Republicans are being completely hypocritical in this process, but they aren’t doing anything illegal. Unlike Trump, McConnell, who’s really the one writing this chapter, is a master at exploiting rules and procedure, but he’s technically not “breaking” anything.
If McConnell is intent on pushing a nominee through before Election Day, step out of the way, express your extreme disapproval, and let him do it as quickly as possible. Because it’s to his advantage to keep the process going til as close to Election Day as possible, because it helps keeps Trump off the table. So boycott, and let him just do it. Maybe Republicans won’t even do a hearing; some Right-wing pundits are pushing for that. And you’ll have time to reset. And refocus the spotlight on Trump.
The danger is you might look like a pushover. But you’ll look more like a pushover if you raise hell in a hearing room, resulting in a lot of headlines about a “contentious” nomination (which is of course just what Republicans want), and then get summarily plowed under anyhow. Take the hit today, since it’s coming anyway. And then get your momentum going, and hit back harder.
One of our favorite quotes is from once Trump campaign Chair and now convicted felon, Paul Manafort. Who was right when he said:
“Whoever is in the spotlight on Election Day loses.”
In 2016, that was Hillary Clinton, after FBI Director James Comey’s 11th hour announcement of “more emails”. Trump is very lucky, and could very well pull another rabbit out of his hat anyway, but he’s running out of time.
Back in 2016, news networks were rightly criticized for hanging on Trump’s every word and extensively covering every one of his rallies. Because it gave Trump tons of free publicity. Now, by and large, they’re not. Except for the occasional super-crazy new lie that he might spout at one of his rallies. So this time around, by keeping Trump on the road a lot and doing a lot of rallies, his campaign is actually keeping him out of the spotlight, not in it.
And while Republicans and even Trump have struggled mightily to drag Joe Biden into a spotlight of his own, they really haven’t succeeded yet. But they might succeed at dragging Democrats into the spotlight if the confirmation hearing turns into a slug fest. And that might hurt just as bad.
Don’t stand down: Use the time that Republicans will be tied up thrusting their Justice through to outflank them. Protest. March. Campaign. Encourage people to vote. And maximize your chances of winning the election.
I’m not going to speculate on whether Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate Kamala Harris’ time might be better spent on the campaign trail, actively boycotting the Republican-conjured confirmation hearing, than cross-examining the Supreme Court candidate.
What’s for sure is there are 23 Republican Senators up for re-election. One of the only points of leverage Democrats have right now is keeping those Republicans at threat of losing their seats in town for the amount of time it will take to complete the nomination. Because the Senate technically can’t function if more than half its members aren’t present. Here’s how the federal government’s Congressional Research Service explains the “quorum procedures”:
“The Senate presumes that…a quorum is always present unless and until the absence of a quorum is suggested or demonstrated. This presumption allows the Senate to conduct its business on the floor with fewer than 51 Senators present until a Senator ‘suggests the absence of a quorum.’”
So the Senate often does operate without an actual quorum, but that’s only because all parties agree it’s OK. If 1 Democratic Senator wants to challenge that, they can. There are 53 Republican Senators. Half plus 1 is 51. So if Democrats — except 1 — step out of the process, Republicans will find it very hard to make time for their candidates — even those in very tight races — to step away. And believe me, if the shoe was on the other foot, this is exactly what Republicans would do.
Personally, I’m on the fence about whether Democrats including Joe Biden should go on the record and say they’ll expand the number of Justices on the Supreme Court should Biden get elected and Democrats win back the Senate. First of all, too many “ifs” there. At the same time, it would be a real promise of the kind of real change that could fire up some Democrats and warm them up to Joe Biden to a degree they haven’t yet. On the other hand, it might provide evidence to wavering voters that “you see, Trump was right, Democrats are intent on doing radical change.” Most people are just generally afraid of any kind of change, so it’s hard to get something this big to sit well this close to an election.
But didn’t Trump win last time by promising change? Nah. Not really. “Make America Great Again” was so brilliant because it was a slogan of anti-change, of rewind.
Which means what Democrats probably need to do here is exactly what Republicans would do: communicate to the people whom you may inspire that this is absolutely what you will do, through signals and messaging that they will understand, without actually ever coming out and actually saying it.
Here’s one of my new favorite quotes, that I just heard on a podcast today. It’s from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
And whatever you do or don’t do, don’t boycott the election!