Within an hour of the announcement on Friday that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had suffered yet another health scare — this time, radiation treatment for a cancerous pancreatic tumor — discussion commenced on the topic of a potential fight over the eventual replacement for the long-serving 86-year-old jurist.
Democratic political strategist and former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, David Axelrod, took to Twitter to warn that any hypothetical effort by the Republican-led Senate to fill Ginsburg’s potentially vacant seat in an election year would “tear this country apart.”
Bracing for a fight
Axelrod, who has surprisingly served as something of a voice of reason as his party shifts ceaselessly toward the left, nevertheless reverted to irrational fear-mongering — though likely with a hint of truth, unfortunately — in predicting a disastrous political fight if efforts were made to fill Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court in 2020.
The former Obama adviser tweeted, “If there is a SCOTUS vacancy next year and @senatemajldr carries through on his extraordinary promise to fill it-despite his own previous precedent in blocking Garland-it will tear this country apart.”
The Washington Examiner reported that Axelrod’s commentary referenced remarks made by Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in May, as well as the manner in which McConnell blocked consideration of Obama-nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2016.
Apples and oranges
With respect to McConnell’s recent remarks about the potential to address a hypothetical vacancy in the 2020 election year, McConnell said, “Oh, we’d fill it.” That comment didn’t sit well with Democrats that are still smarting over McConnell’s refusal to even consider, much less hold confirmation hearings, for Garland when he was nominated to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
But McConnell has explained how the situations surrounding the 2016 vacancy and a potential 2020 vacancy are vastly different, and therefore lend themselves to disparate treatment.
In the case of Garland, his nomination was made by a lame-duck, term-limited president in his final year at a time when the Senate, the body tasked with providing “advice and consent” on Supreme Court nominees, was under the control of the opposition party.
The situation would be starkly different for a vacancy in 2020, however, as any prospective nominee would be put forward by a president seeking re-election at a time when his party also controls the Senate.
Sad, but true
Democrats have either refused to accept, or simply don’t understand, the nuanced differences in the two scenarios, and given the manner in which Democrats fought against the nominations of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — both to fill seats vacated by Republican-appointed jurists — the fight over who will fill a previously Democrat-appointed seat will be that much more contentious.
Unfortunately, Axelrod is probably correct that an attempt to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2020 — especially if that vacancy is Ginsburg’s seat — will “tear this country apart.”
The sad reality is that angry Democrats unable to accept the reality that “elections have consequences” will be the ones lashing out and disrupting the country with yet another prolonged temper tantrum over political differences.