Democrats Botch Supreme Court Politics

As President Donald Trump prepares to name his Supreme Court nominee on Monday, disgruntled Democrats are carping at Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell for his cheap politics in denying even a vote on their highly qualified pick in 2016.

They also need to look in the mirror. Democrats set the stage for their powerlessness to affect the court choice, and their reaction just deepens their political anguish.

A year ago, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer spearheaded a filibuster against Neil Gorsuch, nominated by Trump to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Predictably, McConnell changed the rules on a party line vote, so that Gorsuch could be confirmed by a majority vote instead of needing 60 supporters as the Senate had previously required.

If Democrats had bowed to the inevitable Gorsuch confirmation, allowing a doctrinaire conservative to replace another doctrinaire conservative, they would now be in a stronger position to block a replacement for the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court’s swing vote. Had the old rules been left in place, one Republican defector would have the power to stop the change needed to confirm a justice by simple majority.

Democrats also paved the way for McConnell’s gambit in 2013, when they held a Senate majority. That was when Democratic leader Harry Reed changed the rules to let a majority vote confirm lower-court and executive-branch appointees. That made it possible for Democrats to curtail endless Republican filibusters against nominations by President Barack Obama, but it also opened a door for McConnell.

The result is likely to be a Supreme Court dominated by conservatives for a decade or more.

Democrats are compounding their past miscalculations by making today’s fight almost exclusively about abortion. This diminishes other critical issues like voting rights, affirmative action, partisan gerrymandering, disability rights and a check on executive excesses.

Democratic strategy amounts to hoping that they can persuade the Maine Republican senator and abortion-rights supporter Susan Collins to vote against a nominee who would overturn…

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