Dahleen Glanton: In the battle of the Supreme Court, Democrats need to get down in the gutter with Republicans

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Filling U.S. Supreme Court seats has always been an unpredictable game. It required no particular skills for one team to prevail over the other. Everything was left to chance.

Though the stakes were high, conservatives and liberals for years seemed resigned to accepting whatever fate they were handed. The inherent fairness in the process, afforded by the Constitution, assured that both sides would get a turn.

That was until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly changed the rules. Now, Democrats must do whatever is necessary to get back what was stolen from them.

It’s time for Democrats to start thinking like Republicans. That means almost everything should be on the table, including impeaching Donald Trump a second time or going after Attorney General William Barr.

McConnell and other Senate Republicans don’t hesitate when it comes to self-preservation. Four years ago, for the first time in history, the controlling political party refused to allow the subordinate party to take its turn.

By refusing to give Barack Obama’s court nominee a Senate confirmation hearing in 2016, Republicans cheated Democrats out of a crucial move that ultimately determined who controlled the Supreme Court.

Their justification for it was ridiculous and obviously now, hypocritical. But the bottom line is they won.

Liberal jurist Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death has given conservatives an opportunity to stack the high court in their favor for years to come. But more than that, a conservative majority would put civil rights, health care, the environment, a woman’s right to control her body, voting rights and other freedoms in jeopardy.

Most Americans agree that nothing should happen before the Nov. 3 contest between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden is decided.

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Sunday, two days after Ginsburg’s death, 62% of adults said the new justice should be appointed by the winner, while 23% disagreed.

McConnell’s move in 2016 was bold and highly calculated. It was risky too. Liberals painted him as a ruthless cheater, which doesn’t faze him at all. Many Republicans, however, saw him as a brilliant strategist who made a winning move.

He is all those things. And he will continue to win at the expense of our democracy unless Democrats decide to get down in the gutter with him and fight like everything America stands for depends on it.

Republicans have challenged Democrats to a street fight. Democrats can’t act like they’re going to an afternoon tea party. Protecting Ginsburg’s legacy is worthy of every bit of energy they have in them.

That means dropping the ridiculous mantra, “When they go low, we go high.” The only way to force Republicans to play by the rules is to get rid of that Pollyanna attitude and declare, “When they go low, we go lower.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears open to the idea of meeting McConnell at his level to stop him from pushing through Trump’s nominee before the election or in the lame duck session afterward.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Pelosi said Democrats “have arrows in our quiver,” but she refused to specify what the options are.

She flatly ruled out holding the nation hostage with a government shutdown. At least she has more concern for the American people than McConnell does. Refusing to fund the government is the GOP’s weapon of choice when they can’t get their way.

Pelosi seemed to leave the door open, however, to the idea of stalling the court nomination process with an impeachment. Democrats could either take another shot at Trump or choose a new target in Barr.

Barr certainly is an attractive option.

Some Democrats have long called upon Pelosi to initiate proceedings against Barr, who has misused his job as the nation’s attorney as though he is Trump’s personal attorney and fixer.

The most notable offense occurred last year when he appeared to have misled Congress about the findings in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Among other things Barr’s critics contend could be grounds for impeachment are his use of the Justice Department to intervene in Roger Stone’s sentencing and his attempt to overturn the convictions of Trump ally and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Barr also came under scrutiny for firing Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was looking into the dealings of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and other associates.

Democrats have no more of a chance at forcing Barr out of Trump’s cabinet than they did when they tried to remove Trump from office. But desperate times require guts.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Republicans will have enough votes to ram through a nominee whenever they’re ready. It’s ridiculous to think that four Republicans will break ranks and join the Democrats on this one.

Republicans are salivating at the prospect of a solid conservative lock on the Supreme Court. There’s no need to try to embarrass them by replaying audio of what they said four years ago. It’s hypocritical of Democrats to pretend as though the excuses GOP senators made in 2016 are valid reasons for waiting this time around. Calling Congressional Republicans liars and cheats won’t stop McConnell and his crew.

Only one thing can stop a ruthless Senate majority leader. It’s an even more ruthless speaker of the House.



Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.


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