I heard on the news that the Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel ban in yet another 5-4 decision. For a liberal like myself, news such as this serves as another stinging reminder of how conservative Republicans obtained their 5-4 Court majority in the first place: by abject bad faith. As we all remember, Antonin Scalia died on February 13, 2016, almost a full year before the end of Obama’s second term. But when Obama nominated the exceptionally qualified and moderate Merrick Garland for the Court, the Republican-majority Senate refused to even hold hearings on his nomination, preferring to wait for the results of the 2016 election to see if they could steal the seat for themselves, which they did. If the situation had been reversed, would Democrats have done the same to a Republican president? I highly doubt it. After all, it would be unethical to do this. And therein lies the rub. Republicans have a distinct advantage because they will do anything, no matter how underhanded, to win, and Democrats won’t. When they go low, we go high. The problem is, “going high” does not appear to be a formula for electoral success.
The Garland Supreme Court seat theft is far from the only example of the GOP’s scorched earth politics. Trump’s entire modus operandi upends behavioral norms; the non-stop lying, the juvenile insults, the self-aggrandizement. Some Democrats try to return the insults, but it’s clear that their hearts aren’t in it. Democrats look embarrassed doing that kind of thing, whereas Republicans, being shameless, don’t. And then there’s gerrymandering. Both parties do it, but Republicans have raised it to an art form, showing no shame whatsoever. It used to be that voter participation was a civic goal of all Americans, regardless of party. Now Republicans gleefully push voter suppression whenever they can. Democrats simply don’t do that.
When the Supreme Court issued its decision in Bush v. Gore, Gore conceded immediately for the good of the country. Does anyone really think that Bush would have done the same if the situation had been reversed? If you do, I point you to Republican Senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota, who allowed his state to go without one of its senators while he spent months futilely pursuing any avenue he could to overturn his election loss to Al Franken. Let’s also remember that Obama (much to the chagrin of some of his fellow Democrats) spent years in his administration reaching across the aisle and having his hand slapped away for his efforts. Bipartisanship to Trump is trying to insult and browbeat Democrats into doing exactly what he wants. Compromise is a four-letter word to him, and not just because he doesn’t know how to spell. Furthermore, Republicans had no problem accepting the help of Putin and his fellow Russian thugs to win the 2016 election. Apparently they will accept that help again in 2018, judging by their efforts to impede any attempt to investigate the 2016 attack on our democracy.
So what should Democrats do? I don’t think imitating the GOP will work. It takes a real nihilistic mean-spiritedness to pull this kind of thing off, and I just don’t think that Democrats have it in them. Unless someone had a better idea, I think the best thing Democrats can do when Republicans flout norms and decency is to scream loud and long and to fight back fiercely in every way that honor allows. When they go low, we raise hell and kick ass!!!