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This is the most important moment of Chuck Schumer’s political life.
Anthony Kennedy’s abrupt retirement from the Supreme Court gives Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell the chance to create a legacy of conservative lawmaking that will outlast either of their political careers. Kennedy was a self-important, swing-voter-mostly-because-he-told-reporters-he-was in the mold of a John McCain, but he also legitimately did break with the other four conservatives on the bench from time to time. Replacing him with a stauncher conservative would be catastrophic to minorities and women and workers and people who enjoy living in sensical voting districts or just being able to vote at all. To put it another way, it’s the best case scenario for McConnell and Trump and the Republican mission.
Chuck Schumer is the only person who stands between them and this lasting legacy.
Schumer leads the Democrats as they approach a midterm with suddenly heightened importance: maybe, just maybe, if the vote happens after the midterms, the Democrats can take control of the Senate and reject one of Trump’s incredibly conservative nominees. With a majority in the Senate, Democrats could delay even delay the entire process until 2020 to make up for the seat stolen under Obama; at the very least they could get a more moderate Justice nominated. But that only happens if the Democrats can somehow hold off the vote until November.
This is a moment that requires desperate tactics, political grandstanding, and–above all–a staunch commitment to holding the line.
These are not qualities that at any point have defined the actions of Chuck Schumer, who spent a good part of last week lecturing his fellow party on civility while the Trump administration rushed to clean up their child cages. But he’s all we got.
Schumer’s opponent is a dead-eyed bad-faith lizard person who only cares about victory. McConnell says his timeline for the confirmation process is mid-July and, hysterically, that the candidate deserves a fair hearing from the Senate.
Already, we are seeing encouraging signs that the Democrats may dig their heels on this. Kamala Harris, Dianne Feinstein, Bernie Sanders, and a few other senators have already said that the vote should wait until after the election. (Schumer himself is among them!) Beyond being essential to keeping us doomed from a decade of horrible court decisions, this also makes practical sense. The (ridiculously shitty) preccident McConnell set the last time there was an open seat in an election year only seems fair to enforce here too.
Of course, that’s assuming the Republicans are acting in good faith, and they are not. Time and time again, from tax reform to health care, Republicans have stormed through any procedural decorum or basic sense. With Gorsuch’s nomination, the Democrats filibustered the vote, so McConnell just got rid of the filibuster! And that was just to uphold the Court’s ideological balance!
Lacking any real procedural power, the Democrats would need to do something equally if not more drastic to keep the vote from happening; and Schumer would need to both initiate this and keep his caucus united through it. This would be a nearly impossible challenge for any minority leader, much less somehow who has continuously disappointed in his political calculations.
But the stakes are almost impossibly high. Kennedy’s swing votes were critical in legalizing gay marriage, upholding Roe v. Wade, and discouraging racial and gender discrimination. Those fundemential judicial underpinnings of our society’s basic rights will undoubtedly be challenged again, and they will likely fall with anyone to Kennedy’s right in his seat. Keeping a staunch conservative from his seat is the highest priority, and the only path to that requires holding off a vote in the Senate as long as possible.
Chuck Schumer, please don’t fuck this up.