“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say, Lindsay Graham said ‘let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination.’”
Lindsey Graham said those exact words in 2016 when President Obama attempted to nominate Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court during an election year. Now, almost six weeks before the 2020 election, Graham has rolled out a plan to have Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s pick, to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, confirmed to the high court by Oct. 22.
For me and many other American liberals, the flip-flop of senators like Graham on nominating Supreme Court justices during an election year is nothing short of infuriating. Not only is Barrett’s nomination a blatant attack on the principles of our democracy, but it threatens to strip access to healthcare and abortions for millions of Americans and roll back gun safety laws. At only 48 years old, she could have the power to influence decisions for decades.
The most outrageous part of the ordeal isn’t Barrett’s positions, though, it’s how powerless Democrats are to stop it. As frustratingly hypocritical as Graham’s actions are, the fact is that the Republicans have the votes to carry them out. To many, it seems that all hope is lost.
But, as cliché as it sounds, we must find the silver lining. After all, Barrett’s nomination is not the end of the world; there will still be hearings, votes and elections to come. Thus, I would contend that there is still hope for the Democratic Party to gain something from what seems like a tragedy if they follow these three steps.
1. Fight like hell
Graham’s plan is to have Barrett confirmed by the Senate by the end of October, but this does not have to be the case. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has made it clear that he and his caucus will do everything in their power to delay the hearing as much as possible. The goal is to prevent Barrett from being seated on the high court until well after the election. Not only would this highlight just how undemocratic the Republican efforts are, but it would also prevent Barrett from having a say when the court rules on Obamacare on Nov. 10.
Schumer has already invoked the “two-hour rule,” which can cut off Senate business after it has been in session for over two hours. They’re also refusing to consent to hearing bills that would usually reach the floor. Procedural tools they have yet to use include calling for unnecessary votes like quorum calls or roll call votes on procedural matters and getting the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to pass a resolution which they could bring directly to the Senate floor. All of these measures waste time, both pushing the hearing back and preventing Republican incumbents from campaigning for re-election.
2. Control the hearing
While Barrett’s confirmation is imminent, it won’t happen overnight. Just like with Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh, the Senate Democrats will have the chance to question Barrett during her confirmation hearing. Not only should they avoid the boycott that several activists and politicians have proposed, but they should also seek the opportunity to demonstrate to America the sheer level of chicanery the Republican Party has employed in her nomination.
This means painting Barrett as an extreme conservative who will threaten the programs that both base and swing voters hold dear. Most notably, Barrett criticized the Supreme Court when it upheld the Affordable Care Act in 2012, and Democrats should make sure to stress in the hearing that Barrett could rule to take healthcare away from millions of Americans in the middle of a pandemic. They should also emphasize how Barrett’s originalist interpretation of the Constitution means she would be a vote against both LGBT and abortion rights.
3. Rock the vote
All of this culminates in the final goal; dominate in November. Recent polls show that over half of Americans think that the next president should be the one to fill the vacant seat. By bringing attention to the unprincipled efforts of Republican politicians to put a dangerously conservative justice on the court, Democrats could galvanize voters like never before. This could mean big victories in key Senate races, like North Carolina where Republican incumbent Thom Tillis is in a close contest with Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham, or Montana, where Democratic Governor Steve Bullock is threatening Republican Steve Daines’ seat. Even our old pal Lindsey Graham in South Carolina is tightly matched with Democratic nominee Jaime Harrison.
Of course, the big focus lies in the White House. Polls show Joe Biden is clearly ahead of Trump for now, but of course, the polls have been wrong before. With a Trump comeback an ever-looming threat, the Barrett nomination may have been an inadvertent opportunity for the Democratic Party to motivate Americans to take down his administration.