RIP, RBG

Six weeks ago, the Toteboard discussed the dysfunctional recent history of Supreme Court confirmation battles, and tossed out one especially depressing prognostication: “And you can bet your buns that if Trump loses in November and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies two days before Biden’s inauguration, the lame-duck republican senate will shamelessly ram through another appointment before her family even begins to sit shiva.” Well, it may not be two days before Biden’s inauguration, but within hours of the announcement of RBG’s death, Trump and McConnell and their evil republican minions started talking up their plans to ram through another right-wing appointment as quickly as possible. Of course, the democrats and many in the media cried foul, rightfully accusing the party that stonewalled Merrick Garland of hypocrisy and (at the very least) operating with a political double standard. But such accusations are actually quite laughable, as the republican leadership has been absolutely consistent and transparent in their commitment to a single unifying political and intellectual principle: that of manipulating power in any way possible to advance a partisan agenda (as opposed to, say, wielding power responsibly in the interest of the public good). As we have seen over the years, the defining characteristic of this principle is a willingness to utilize any available tool – obstruction, misinformation, gerrymandering, voter suppression, circumventing precedent – all with a blithe disregard regard for such matters as ethics, fairness, integrity, intellectual honesty, or even legality. And so, the Toteboard wants to state for the record a handful of axioms that govern the new normal, mainly so people won’t be surprised as events unfold over the coming weeks or months. 1. The republicans will do anything to advance their agenda. Every time some article suggests a nightmare scenario, it may not be such a hot idea to comfort yourself by saying “well, they’d never go that far.” In fact, they will go as far as they can, until the Supreme Court, the military, or God physically intervenes. Yes, if they can pull it off, they will confirm a new justice before the election. Yes, if the process grinds on a bit, they will have no qualms about confirming a new justice during a lame duck session. And yes, if the wheels seem to be grinding too slowly, they will simply skip the hearings and rush a vote. In the world of big-time wrestling, once the heel realizes the referee won’t stop him from biting his opponent, gouging his eyes, or jamming his forehead with a can-opener or roll of nickels, there is really no line that he will be afraid to cross. 2. The republicans will not feel obligated to justify their tactics. When called on the blatant hypocrisy of rushing a confirmation seven weeks from an election after they blocked a previous one eight months prior, they concocted some phony baloney excuse about the different partisan configuration of the government branches. And once the speciousness of that argument was exposed, they simply shrugged their shoulders smugly as if to say “well, just try to stop us,” all while winking at their base. The same thing will happen if they rush a vote without hearings. There’s really no point in asking how they justify what they do – they do what they do simply because they can. 3. The republicans do not care about what precedents they break, or establish. Don’t delude yourself into thinking the republicans will avoid certain tactics for fear that the democrats will turn around and do it to them next time around. Part of this is that they think, perhaps with justification, that they have so rigged the system in their favor that it will be another generation before the democrats can completely turn things back on them, even if Trump loses. After all, they have totally stacked the courts at all levels, maintained congressional advantage through gerrymandering at the federal and state levels, taken advantage of the small-state bias in the senate and electoral college, and honed the maintenance of minority rule to an art form. In other words, precedents don’t matter, because there may not be any real checks on their abuses of power. And not so incidentally, a pretty substantial contingent of the party on the right is on some kind of whacked-out apocalyptic mission to ‘save’ America from the foreigners, ethnic minorities, homosexuals, abortionists, liberals, and college professors. They are so deep into their Faustian bargain, that there really is no turning back. Taken together, these axioms give a preview of what we can expect in the near future. But there’s also a little something else to think about. These axioms apply to far more than the upcoming battle over the Supreme Court. There’s an election coming up, too. Sweet dreams.