The US Senate has a simple norm at the moment.
51 is all that matters.
Anything else is merely a tactic to get to 51.
Let’s just recognize that.
Let us also recognize that Senate Majority Leader McConnell has two lifelong goals:
- Confirm reactionary judges
- Remain Senate Majority Leader
He has a tremendous number of tools to achieve those goals, most notably absolute shamelessness. Charges of hypocrisy leveled against him are useless as they are inoperative in the current power dynamic.
However, he needs to get 50 out of 53 Republican Senators on board for whatever he wants to do. He can count on the Vice President to break a tie. He can afford no more than three defections. He currently has more than three incumbents who are tied or behind their 2020 races:
- Susan Collins R-ME behind
- Martha McSally R-AZ behind
- Corey Gardiner R-CO behind
- Thom Tillis R-NC behind
- Jodi Ernst R-IA tied or behind
- Lindsay Graham R-SC tied or slightly ahead
- Steve Daines R-MT tied or slightly ahead
- David Perdue R-GA tied or slightly ahead
- Georgia Special WTF Knows
These senators, and perhaps Senators Murkowsi and Romney who have no reason to kowtow to Trump, are the pressure and pain points. Several of them are currently looking at the $50,000 or more per minute pace Act Blue is raising and hoping that the firehose of liberal money is not aimed at them. Any nominee that is confirmed will require several of these Senators to likely walk the plank and trade their re-election chances for a 6-3 GOP appointed Supreme Court.
We need to inflict massive political pain for an act that will produce minimum Republican gains. This has to be done in a two step. The first is any Republican Senator who is not on the list should not be targeted for the next week or more. I would love to see McConnell or Coryn lose re-election, but that is extremely unlikely to actually happen so another million or five to those Senate races is a non-strategic use of resources. Senators in marginal Republican seats need to know in their bones that if they vote to confirm a reactionary, they are trading their Senate seat for a short term and transient advantage on the Supreme Court.
The second is we need to pressure Democratic Senators to make a very clear and credible commitment. If there is a reactionary Republican confirmed with 51 votes in 2020, the Senate in 2021, contingent on a Democratic Trifecta, will soon be both a 53 vote body and will be confirming at least four new, young, liberal justices. Four is the appropriate number. Two justices would be used to restore the status quo ante of pre-Garland. Two more would be a meaningful cost on norm violation.
Yes, there are two outcomes to this action. The first is that by 2031, the Supreme Court will be a 999 seat body. The other is an escalation off-ramp of a constitutional amendment to have fixed SCOTUS terms with scheduled replacement tied with strong agreement enforcement mechanisms to discourage/disallow blockades.
Those are the options that have a hint of possibility of intermediate run success. The short run is going to suck even more. But let’s be smart and not piss $10 million dollars in rage money in Kentucky so that we can have a chance of achieving goals.
I said down below that the GOP filling RBG’s seat with a Federalist Society scumbag is a given, bad people do bad things, etc.
But all this means is that the Democratic Party now has an obligation to use victory in November as a mandate to fix the problems the bad guys have caused. Don’t cower, don’t despair, don’t give in. The solution is right there and it’s entirely justified and necessary.
By 2021 the United States Supreme Court should have a substantial Democratic appointed majority and the circumstances surrounding the appointments of the last three GOP Justices should be the subject of a Congressional investigation with an eye to tightening the rules around appointments to prevent McConnell style abuse and deciding whether there is a case for impeaching any of them for lying to the Senate during their confirmations.
Should have been on the cards anyway, now it’s absolutely necessary. Let them scream, let them complain, just do it anyway and start saving the country from the bad guys
Edited to add – None of this is something Democrats should be at all embarrased or defensive about. They don’t need to justify any of these moves to anyone. They are right and correct and necessary and every Democrat should respond to any questions on the topic from this vantage point. Let the GOP shitheads explain why it’s – not – necessary and correct and right to fix the system they broke.
You know, fuckem.
I generally dislike the idea of deliberately not supporting a Democrat just because their victory is unlikely. McGrath down in Kentucky is doing what she can, and she deserves our support, regardless of what the polls say. Just imagine you were in her place in a moment like this.
But I can’t deny that we’re in emergency mode now like never before (if that’s even possible in Trump times). Your list of candidates to support (and, by extension, candidates to NOT support, not financially anyway) is concrete and well-reasoned. Thanks.
I don’t think Federalist Society is enough for Trump and McConnell. I think they’re going for broke: they want to put in someone who’ll break the system permanently and put in Trump (and heirs?) as king for life.
The Russian traitors don’t have the same motives as the Republican Senate. Not right now they don’t.
On Twitter I’m seeing a massive uprising of MAGAs and Russian bots all demanding that the Republican Senators comply with Trump/McConnell and fill the seat NOW NOW NOW, which implies ‘no picking the best for traditional Republican purposes… now! with a crazy, lib-owning choice! now now now!’
I’m also seeing weird twitter shit: for instance, huge numbers of identical posts with the code word ‘SHOOK’ which might be the call to arms to get MAGAs to demand that the Senate Republicans back their play. They’re weird weird posts: all the same image, and similar phrasing, and obviously somebody’s message to somebody. Exactly the kind of hands-off direction giving I’m expecting to see out of the limited control mechanism that Russia operates. Does anybody have a clue (beyond obvious guesses) as to what ‘SHOOK’ would mean as an instruction to MAGAs and QAnons? Are there references to ‘SHOOK’ in Q drops or something?
Two quick points on GA. First, I’d consider adding Warnock to the list for the GA Special. Although he’s behind the two R frontrunners, several polls have him down only a percentage point or two from climbing into the top 2 and making the two person run-off. Second, thankfully it’s David Perdue and not Sonny Perdue that’s the current GA Senator. I say thankfully because Sonny can seem affable in a Matlock sort of way, while David just comes off as an ass.
Let’s be inspired by RBG and man up to tackle a bunch of reforms in honor of her memory. Revise the Supreme Court, as David suggests. There are a number of ideas to pursue there.
But there’s more: Puerto Rico and DC statehood have been issues for a long time. Ignore GOP complaining. Virtually all of the American west was carved up the way it was in the late 19th century when the GOP was at commanding heights of power at the national level. The states were generally understood to be generally to the GOPs favor, and that has largely borne out, a century later. Read about the scam of artificially separating North from South Dakota (a single territory, priori to separation). Making a state out of Nevada, when fewer than 10k people even lived there (!). Adding Puerto Rico and DC doesn’t bother me at all, given that record.
Filibuster reform (in other words, a general end to the very idea). We can see that so many major issues, with significant public support, just go to the Senate to die. That’s not right. We can fix that.
Time for Democrats to play hardball. Turn these issues around and stop playing defensive.
@Chris Johnson: I’m not sure what the SHOOK thing is: I’m old and might be missing what is really an unrelated meme that’s not even political.
One thought on Trump wanting Ted Cruz as the justice: Cruz might be more directly controlled by Russia due to being a cowardly unprincipled little weasel with no Senate friends who’s being blackmailed. Trump might want him because Cruz is a puppet, someone Trump can publically humiliate without consequence to prove how owned Cruz is.
He’d want Tom Cotton because Cotton is directly a MAGAt and already as deep in royalist mode as Barr is. Keep an eye on the royalists. Trump wants a royalist, not a Federalist.
This is the right strategy
I’d add Sullivan (AK) vs the Dem Al Gross. Alaska is a cheap media market, they are somewhat more independent up there, and there have been some good polls.
Excellent post. David. Thank you.
Staying away from any hair on fire posts or commenters. Just not into it.
Interesting analysis and mostly correct, IMO. One point: I agree it’s useless to call McConnell a hypocrite in that McConnell himself is shameless, but I think leveling that charge loudly and often is worthwhile in the sense that it could resonate with voters. Not MAGAs, of course, but perhaps fence-sitters. The blatant unfairness is just so…blatant.
Sounds like Senator Schatz is ready to play hardball:
Our squishy centrists are a concern, but they got on board with impeachment. Perhaps they can be moved to use every lever to stop Republicans from imposing minority rule. It’s now or never.
Very good post. Lifted my spirits somewhat. It occurs to me, an excellent use of Bloomberg’s clout would be for him to call up Collins and say, if you don’t publicly and loudly state you will under no circumstances vote to confirm in the next 24 hours, your opponent gets 500 mil. Clock is ticking, bye bye.
I endorse this post.
Good essay, but I would dispute one point. Stacking the Supreme Court with “reliable” ideologues is far from a “short term and transient advantage” Senators may come and go with each election, but SCOTUS Justices can (and usually do) hang around for decades.
@Jesse: McGrath already has plenty of money, and she’s way behind. Better to put resources elsewhere.
@E.: I wonder if it would help for us to call the endangered GOP senators up for re-election and tell them that we are going to spend X days making GOTV calls for their opponents. And then doing it.
But Bloomberg’s money: yes.
And a bunch of ads about Merrick Garland and that stolen USSC seat. Informative of the history, and that definitely motivates Democratic voters to vote. It still burns.
Remind those we call, if we need to, that the Roberts Court gutted the Voting Rights Act and enshrined Citizens United. Do we want more of that? Could our nation withstand it?
Another thought: John Roberts seems already concerned about the “legitimacy” of his Supreme Court. A country will not respect a Supreme Court that is so cravenly partisan. I wonder if he has any power whatsoever to say he will not sit any Justice, this late in the game? Wait until the voters speak. If it’s a new president, that president gets to seat a Justice.
This has also reminded me a lot of the role of luck in presidencies. One could say that Jimmy Carter had very little luck. Trump has had too much. Alas.
Thank you, David! I have always appreciated your strategic thinking, and I’m glad to see it here. As someone said above–it has lifted my spirits this morning.
I guess the other outcome is that we will eventually have 999 states…if the Dems make DC and PR a state the GOP can vote to take 3 ultra Red states (say Alabama and either Dakota) and split into 2. All that takes is a vote of both houses of Congress and the relevant legislators of those states. And Congress granted ‘pre authorization’ to Texas to split into 5 states when it was admitted into the Union (there is some debate if this was voided when Texas joined the Confederacy), and it is very hard to see how Texas could be 5 Red states, though it could gerrymander into 2 or maybe 3 Red
@Baud: I really want to see limited USSC terms, and a rolling system for nominating and replacing Justices.
Sick of this demographic lottery.
Would have given RBG a few years of retirement. Would remove the potential of one (ghastly) president remaking the USSC for untold years.
@scottinnj: The gloom porn belongs on another thread, dude.
I just donated what is a lot of money to me to Susan Collins’s opponent Sara Gideon. Please join me. I feel we are on the brink here. We may look back at this time and think, yep, that’s the day it really broke.
@E.: Oh, I hope so. And thank you!
I will donate some more to Dr. Al Gross in Alaska. Have not so far donated to Sara Gideon, cuz think she’s well funded, but it could be appealing to follow your example there.
He does not.
@Omnes Omnibus: That’s unfortunate. Ah well.
@E.: But for the pandemic, we were going to arrange a BJ meetup in Maine, to canvass for Sara Gideon (OK, canvass AGAINST Susan Furrowed Brow Collins) and take in the scenery and lovely fresh air.
I miss person to person canvassing this fall! A major source of exercise.
I guess it’s naive to hope this galvanizes most dems, independents and Republicans with a conscience to take on reform of this antiquated anti democratic system. It’s pretty ridiculous that 9 old farts in robes and a dozen senators that represent more jackrabbits than people have this much significance to the fate of the country.
Good, logical, and reasonable post. Thank you. I donated again to Biden, Cunningham, DSCC, DCCC, and DLCC last night and will be pitching in on more of DougJ’s thermometers. We need a strong team and presumably the professionals have good ideas on where incremental dollars and messages should go too. Fingers crossed that our candidates have as much fight as we do.
@Another Scott: Donated to Biden/Harris this morning.
Fight for fifteen!
Five distinguished American women, and finally a hearing for Merrick Garland.
What would be legally required for California, for example, to commit mitosis? I have no idea.
I doubt he does, but in any case he has often feigned ignorance when it suited him. We have to look for ways that Democrats and liberals can push back on Trump. Relying on the good faith of conservative Justices or Senators is not going to save us.
Fear on their part might, though. Fear of losing re-election or fear that the Democrats are primed to add 4 new justices to the court.
Thanks for this well reasoned and hopeful post. Donated my small amount to Biden/Harris and the DSCC this morning.
Anonymous At Work
My immediate thought is that McConnell would hold the hearings and such now, and try for the vote in a lame duck session, several of his 53 already having taken the bullet and with their retirement at stake. It might lose Collins but he’s still ahead with 2 votes to spare.
Email from the League of Women Voters. I think we can make a big difference, showing up — in person — with a battery operated candle. We mourn and admire RBG, and here are our numbers.
@Jinchi: No matter what, I think Democrats should add 4 new seats to the Court. And implement the new rules for rolling replacements. No more demographic bingo.
It’s fine by me if Biden-Harris do not campaign on that, but please do not take any pledge not to do so.
We have so much institutional fail to address, and the USSC is one of them. Needs to be an independent check and balance, not an arm of the Republicans.
Thanks for this post – I appreciate the ‘roll up our sleeves’ tone so much more than the doomsinging from last night.
@Hildebrand: I posted this on the thread above, but I think that this is a little thing that people can do this weekend. It won’t take much time, and it might do a little good:
I already called both of my senators this morning, the good (Baldwin) and the bad (Johnson). Obviously, I got their answering machines, but I left messages saying that I had Baldwin’s back with any efforts the she and the other Democratic senators took to fight a Ginsberg replacement and that I was watching what Johnson was going to do and would be responding with both my vote and my money if he votes to rush through a replacement. I want both of their voicemail inboxes to be full of similar messages when they come in on Monday morning.
Not much, but I think every little bit counts.
@Hildebrand: Yes. That was absolutely fucking disgusting. Skimmed it, and that was enough.
@Elizabelle: You’re right that there’s a lot of institutional failures to address. The SCOTUS is one issue. The Electoral College is another — it basically spots the Republicans 5 points in an election, which is intolerable. Also, there’s the increasingly unsustainable over-representation of low-population, overwhelmingly white states in Congress, and that’s a tough nut to crack.
Under the Constitution (fortunately or unfortunately, take your pick), neither the Chief Justice, nor the Associates, have any say in who gets to sit on the Supreme Court. Justices are nominated by the President, and have to be confirmed by the Senate, and once confirmed, are part of the Court til death or resignation/retirement. Whether wise and respected jurist, or dumb partisan hack, once they’re on the Court, they’re there: unless formally impeached. Or die.
@Omnes Omnibus: Good idea. Both of our Senators here in Michigan need to hear our support – especially Peters, who is in a tough race against the DeVos animatron known as John James.
I’ll be sending Peters another donation, as well.
Gardner and Collins are probably on their way out the door and do not care about their constituents. I expect them to vote for whatever bozos the Republicans put forward to secure whatever they are going to do once they leave the Senate.
Mai Naem mobile
I know bottom line we just need a strong Dem Senate in 2021 but I would like there to be pressure on the nominee. Do you really want the stain of illegitimacy on your back the rest of your life?
Mai Naem mobile
@Betty Cracker: admit PR as two states. Admit DC. Split California into two states. Split Florida as two states – you net one senator. Split Texas into two states -.you net at least one seat. That’s a gain of 10 seats.
Good post. for those of us in blue states, for a change, there’s something useful for us to do. We need to encourage our Reps and Senators to make the kinds of statements that Shatz and Markey have already made, that if Republicans ram through someone, Democracts, if given the power to do so in November, will act.
@Other MJS: Nah. California is not going to split up. Been talking about that for a good century or so. Anyway, if we did split, the other state would be red. So, no.
However, why not include the other territories in the statehood rush? The Pacific Islanders, for example, with Guam as its own entity. We could squeeze a couple more from that.
This is assuming that they don’t get a royalist on the SCOTUS who will install tRump even if we get a blue tsunami, which seems to have started yesterday if Virginia and Minnesota are any indication. Even South Dakota turnout is at least double. Didn’t find anything about Wyoming.
Still, if we get a blue tsunami there won’t be anything they can do, IMHO, not even with a royalist.
@Jay C: My argument is that if SCOTUS is on, 1/1/21 a 6-3 GOP nominated body with an incoming Democratic Trifecta, SCOTUS will be a 7-6 Dem nominated body by 4/1
Throwing in two new states and the probability of reversability decreases significantly as a GOP trifecta gets harder to achieve and a trifecta is what is needed to add seats.
Good post. I think you are missing another pressure point. Graham and some others pledged with the Garland non-vote to do the same in the last year of a republican president’s term. Each of them should be called out. It may not stop them but it should be public and loud. It should be used to leverage down ballot races in competitive states even if it doesn’t oust the ones making the pledge.
Republicans don’t keep their promises should be one line of attack.
Thank you, David. This is a helpful post — both inspiring and realistic. Will be donating to at least several of these Senate races this weekend.
My Senators (Hirono & Schatz) are on the right side of history but I will let them know that I back them and any D efforts to root out the institutional fails.
I’m afraid you’re correct about Kentucky. Right now even Jaime Harrison in SC is a better bet, which was unfathomable a year ago when we crushed it in the governor’s race. I haven’t posted much lately, but I knocked on hundreds of doors last year and shared my joy and optimism on here after we won.
All of that’s to say, it enrages me that national Dems pointed a firehose of money at McGrath to choose our nominee for us. Now of course she’s toast.
I hate McConnell with a burning passion and am making calls for McGrath. But she has positioned herself as an ally of Trump and aspiring concern troll, and has done zero to mobilize black voters, while McConnell is demolishing her in ads. One of her big talking points is that she will fight for term limits for both parties as the best way to “drain the swamp.” I have made my feelings clear to the campaign that this would screw us with folks like Tester.
McConnell is so unpopular here. I have no doubt that Matt Jones (beloved bluegrass sports radio host and author of Mitch, Please!) would be ahead right now, and McConnell would be shitting his pants. But McGrath and McConnell conspired to block his path, and that’s why we’re massively behind despite winning the governorship.
National Dems made that happen by interfering in the primary.
Thankfully we have terrific candidates in AZ, ME, NC, CO, IA, MT, GA, AL, and SC. I think AZ, ME, and CO are in the bag. I think control will ultimately hinge on NC, IA, and MT, and those three are where I’m donating.
@206inKY: I’m sorry that my comment was so bitter. I just have a lot of sadness and rage right now. RBG stretched her body to the limit for us, and I can’t even imagine the suffering she endured. I wish we could take the fight to the belly of the beast right now and topple McConnell himself.
scott (the other one)
I almost agree. Six is actually the appropriate number. Two justices appointed under Bush are illegitimate as Bush v Gore was illegitimate and therefore Roberts and Alito are illegitimate. Two under Trump (so far) are illegitimate and a third would also be illegitimate. The extra is because we need an odd number of justices on the court, and a meaningful cost to norm violation.