Three Democratic Senators Ignore the Threat of a Justice Neil Gorsuch

Don’t they realize that it would be like putting Donald Trump himself on the Supreme Court?

It’s impossible to grasp the logic of Senators Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who have signaled that they will vote to confirm unqualified Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. Kneeling in subservience to Trump and Gorsuch will not spare Donnelly, Heitkamp and Manchin the wrath of Republican voters in the 2018 midterm elections; those voters hate all things Democratic, and will probably not even remember how Donnelly, Heitkamp and Manchin voted on the Gorsuch nomination.

Will other Senate Democrats also vote to confirm Gorsuch? If so, and if Gorsuch makes it to the High Court, how will those Democrats respond when Justice Gorsuch is in the majority on decisions that reaffirm unequal justice under law in this country? What will those Democrats say? “Oops”? “My bad”?

Former Senator and Vice President Joe Biden famously declared that of all the votes he cast in the Senate, the one he most regretted was his vote to confirm the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 1986, “because [Scalia] was so effective” in advancing a right-wing agenda on the Court. It is a guarantee that if Gorsuch makes it to the Court, Donnelly, Heitkamp and Manchin will also be haunted by regret for the remainder of their lives. It’s as though they cannot hear the pleas of those concerned about Gorsuch’s radicalism.

It’s interesting that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell invoked the October 1991 confirmation of Justice Clarence Thomas in his appearance on Fox News Sunday yesterday. Eleven Democratic Senators made the disastrous decision to confirm Thomas back then, and this country has been suffering the consequences ever since.

Twenty-five years ago, the New York Times editorial page presciently observed:

[Thomas] is, for one thing, the youngest Justice. He might well serve until the year 2030 or beyond. Although his voting record now is identical only to that of Justice Scalia, he could attract enough support from future appointees to move the Court still further to the right.

The combination of Thomas, Samuel Alito, John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch and a potential second Trump Supreme Court nominee would be nothing short of catastrophic for this country–and Senate Democrats who surrendered their morality by voting to confirm these right-wing ideologues will deserve, and receive, the harsh judgment of history. Fear of losing a re-election effort in a red state does not and cannot justify a dereliction of moral duty.

After John Kerry conceded the 2004 presidential election to President George W. Bush, then-Boston Phoenix media columnist Dan Kennedy declared:

One thing I’m not going to do is start praising the wisdom of the electorate and bowing to its judgment. The outcome of this election is bad news for anyone who cares about a more just, equitable, peaceful, and diverse society. It’s bad news for gays and lesbians, poor people, scared single women who need an abortion, soldiers, you name it. It’s good news if you make more than $200,000 a year.

Gorsuch on the Supreme Court will also be “bad news for anyone who cares about a more just, equitable, peaceful, and diverse society.” Senate Democrats who vote to confirm Gorsuch will therefore be the bearers of bad news.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.