Since January 20, many Americans have been daydreaming about the possibility of rebuilding the government from the ground up, like an episode of Designated Survivor. But as fun as it would be to watch Democrats tantrum their way into blocking Judge Neil Gorsuch‘s Supreme Court nomination, it’s a bad idea and would follow in the Republicans dangerous precedent. Here are five reasons why they should not block Gorsuch.
1. The guy is totally qualified.
The worst anyone can really say about Judge Gorsuch is that he’s a Scalia clone. And let’s face it – Scalia wasn’t exactly a dimwit. Sure, many Democrats subscribe to a completely different ideology than Nino did, but that’s hardly grounds for disqualification. We’re dealing with an administration that’s literally appointing cabinet members who wanted to demolish the agencies they’re now charged with leading. The nomination of Harvard-educated, well-respected and judicially-experienced Judge Gorsuch for SCOTUS is everything the nomination of grizzly-bear-fearing, public-school-hating, IDEA-ignorant Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary isn’t. When Democrats win the White House, they’ll get their turn to pick a person they prefer – but until then, they have an obligation to support a qualified and appropriate nominee. Yes, Republicans had that duty too, when that nominee was Merrick Garland. They shirked it, and they were wrong to do so. They should have lost their Senate seats for their choice, and it’s gross that they now have the majority. But whining about appointing President Obama’s Harvard Law School classmate will come off like the Liberal Who Cried “Unqualified.”
2. Dems need to save their foot-stamping for the stuff that’s really important.
Yes, SCOTUS justices serve for life, and yes, Judge Gorsuch is only 49. But he’s replacing the seat of another conservative justice. And it’s not as if SCOTUS has been a total disaster for the past 30 years. There are nine justices on the Court, and Gorsuch will be just one; like Scalia’s voice often did, Gorsuch’s voice has the potential to contribute productively to the debate of complex legal issues. This just doesn’t seem like the moment to exercise widescale resistance.
In just its first eleven days, Trump Administration has proven it can do quite a lot of damage. It’s issuing executive orders that haven’t even been reviewed by those who charged with their implementation. It’s creating havoc by announcing policies that are widely misunderstood and highly inflammatory. It’s clearly disregarding the legal scope of executive authority, and it’s prioritizing politics and entertainment value over public safety and Constitutionality. There will be a time for Dems to use every weapon in their arsenal to counteract what this Administration seeks to destroy. But the appointment of a well-qualified and well-respected federal appellate judge isn’t that time.
3. It’s the law.
Now more than ever, the importance of working within the confines of the law is paramount. Americans look to our elected officials to understand how the system should work. And voting on a Supreme Court nominee is clearly, unequivocally, the Senate’s job. No, there will be no reward for doing what’s right. But that’s why it’s called an “obligation.” And yes, it’s completely unfair that the GOP stamped its partisan feet and refused to vote on Merrick Garland’s appointment. Their refusal to vote on President Obama’s nominee was unethical, illegal, and a shirking of responsibility so great that it should have amounted to an unseating of every Republican Senator who placed politics over duty. Voters’ choice to elect and re-elect those Senators anyway is a testament to Americans’ thirst for cable-news style conflict. Plenty of voters would probably love to see fist-fights break out of the Senate floor—but that doesn’t mean it’s a smart idea to start electing modern day versions of Preston Brooks.
4. He is a purist when it comes to the separation of powers.
Judge Gorsuch is all about judges not legislating from the bench. There are bound to be disagreements over what actually constitutes that kind of improper legislating — but the concept is one that is unarguably good for our system of checks and balances. More than ever before, the separation of powers is becoming blurred. Many of President Trump’s promises, as well as his actions, gravely threaten to overreach his legal authority. Judge Gorsuch may feel some loyalty to the president who appointed him; but as a serious jurist, it’s unlikely that he’d stand behind unfettered executive authority.
5. The act of casting a vote may help to invigorate the bipartisan spirit.
Democrats are right to be disgusted by Republicans who spinelessly support President Trump’s agenda even when it directly opposes the values they have always espoused. But that disgust isn’t really about hatred of conservative principles or the Republican platform – it’s about partisanship so strong as to supersede even common sense. The GOP may be riding the wave of “let’s see where this president may lead us, and we’ll jump off if things get too crazy,” but such a mentality is as undemocratic as it is impractical. Any elected official with even a modicum of integrity cares about the votes he or she casts. Boycotts, filibusters, and stalling may all be tempting, but in the end, most senators will not cast a vote for something with which he or she truly disagrees. Some Democratic senators may find that when faced with an actual vote, they are uncomfortable casting a vote against Judge Gorsuch. However the vote turns out, the discomfort may serve as a reminder that even in such divisive times, there can be much to unite upon.
Follow Elura Nanos on Twitter @elurananos
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.