There is nothing that Republicans love more than having a good old fashioned issue of principal to drive out the voters. The 2018 mid-terms have the potential to be the second set of elections with a US Supreme Court seat up for grabs, if the Democrats manage to hold off the nomination process until after November.
Whatever happens it will be another win/win for Mitch McConnell, the brilliantly unappealing Republican leader in the US Senate. If he doesn’t get his nomination through the GOP have a red-meat rallying cry for November, if they do, the revolution can continue, though likely at a faster clip than under the current configuration. No matter how much the Democrats go on about stolen seats, and you will hear about that with every 5-4 decision from here until doomsday, you can’t deny McConnell’s brilliance.
Take the vacancy after the death of Judge Antonin Scalia. Obama could have put Merrick Garland on the court for a year using an intersessional recess appointment in January 2017. There would have been howls of rage, but so what, Obama was out and the action would have been constitutional. That appointment would probably have allowed a number of important cases to be won over the last year. It would have put the Republicans (slightly) on the back foot. The American people would have seen Merrick Garland, a reasonable man, on the bench. The democratic talking heads could have spoken about averting a stolen seat. Some soft republicans could have been peeled away. But, he didn’t. Obama played within the expected rules of the game.
Now, here’s a thought experiment, how do you think a Republican President would have reacted in the same scenario? What would they have done?
What makes the GOP so ruthless and the Democrats so toothless? I think it comes down to one clear point. The Democrats are a political party that respects the constitutional norms of good governance, without a unifying mission.
The GOP are a revolutionary organization whose internal factions: Evangelicals, Gun Nuts, Libertarians and High Finance are unified with a common theme. That theme is the elimination of what they see as government over-reach. But very specific over-reach. Religious and Regulatory. It isn’t about individual liberty versus the state, if it was the GOP would be solidly for a Woman’s Right to Choose. It isn’t for State’s Rights per se. If it was the GOP controlled federal government would not be chasing so called Sanctuary States, or threatening California over environmental standards.
No, it is when the Federal Government (or State Governments) disagree with the two gods of American society: Jesus and money. The GOP is ruthless at protecting those interests. At the moment it is environmental and energy legislation and the dismantling of Roe v Wade. Next it will be the dismantling of social security to preserve tax cuts, further cuts to regulation and challenges to marriage equality. They will soon have enough seats to starting thinking about truly amending the US constitution, rather than just winning interpretation battles. The GOP need to win control of two more states to be able to call a Constitutional Convention. Two, that’s all. The GOP get this. The can rally around these obtuse issues. When Susan Sarandon and enough other progressives voted to support Jill Stein and deny Hillary Clinton the Presidency, the GOP were holding their nose and voting to control Supreme Court. And no, Trump will not put forward a Centrist to fill the Kennedy seat. He will put forward someone who looks very like Gorsuch, at least politically. The GOP in Congress will demand this. Their constituents will demand it. Their paymasters will demand it. And, unless the Democrats rally both in Congress and in the forthcoming election, the GOP will get it. They could get it all.
That is the GOP theme. Take Control of the Country for generations, maybe permanently. Preserve God for the poor and Money for the rich. That is why they won’t turn on Trump. He gets it, and he’s delivering. Control - that is their religion.
The Democrats have no such unifying theme. Like many soft-left parties across the world they have three distinct and somewhat contradictory constituencies: The old blue-collar, white, working class, the urban, educated elite and ethnic minorities. Their desires are somewhat contradictory.
The first group wants to turn the clock back to when a high-school diploma could land you a good, well paid job that you could raise a family on. They are economically confused because no one has solved this problem and generally socially conservative. These folks voted Trump in the US and Brexit in England. They have a tribal allegiance but it is fraying.
The second, the urban elite, wants to fight for equality, especially identity equality, with a large dollop of environmental protection to be on the safe side. Progressive economically and socially, these folks represent the current vocal and hegemonic leadership of their respective parties.
The third are the disenfranchised ethnic minorities. Urban, poor and generally used as voting fodder. Economically progressive and socially neutral. The older generation tending towards social conservatism, the younger, social liberalism.
These worlds don’t interact, but when they do, upsets happen, which explains Alexandria Oscario-Cortez’s stunning victory in New York this week.
The Democrats have to galvanize their constituencies to vote this November. Congress has to fight within the wording of the constitution, including taking action that will make the other side of the aisle and Fox News mad. But, most of all, they need to find a unifying narrative. Something that all parts of the party can rally around.
So let me propose one, policies that center on one thing: Preservation. Progressive Preservation. Preservation of Jobs and Income. Preservation of the environment. Preservation of the American Middle Class. Preservation of the mores of the founding fathers. Preservation of the Constitution, including the second amendment (with background checks etc., etc.,). Preservation of the greatest democratic republic the world has ever seen.
Because there’s one thing I am absolutely sure about… The current Conservatives don’t want to conserve jack.