To Republican leadership
Blake Ziegler | Wednesday, September 30, 2020
To: Republican Leadership
You are understandably eager to fill the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. Along with the numerous other judicial appointments under the current administration, a 6-3 conservative majority on the highest court in the land would surely enact the agenda you have been struggling to implement for years. However, I cannot emphasize enough how horrible a decision you have made. My purpose is not to praise or discredit President Trump’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Rather, it is to criticize your choice to fill the seat so close to the election, a decision that will have dreadful consequences for Republicans in November.
Deciding to confirm Barrett days before the election is a clear flip-flop from 2016. After the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, you declared you would not hold a vote over any nominee from President Obama. The Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in 2016 that “the American people are presented with an exceedingly rare opportunity to decide” their next Supreme Court justice. When the election was still months away, you were comfortable stalling the nomination process to give a voice to the people. Yet, you are even more comfortable in confirming Trump’s nominee thirty-four days before the election, robbing those same people of their voice. This is blatant hypocrisy for political gain that does not bode well for our democratic institutions. I urge you to abandon the desire to manipulate procedure for personal benefit. If we allow ourselves to disregard our constitutional infrastructure, we will suffer the same hand we dealt the Democrats when they gain power again, which is becoming exceedingly likelier.
The voters are already against you. Across 12 polls, 52% of voters prefer the winner of the 2020 election fill the vacant seat. While it is likely people’s opinions are driven by partisanship, can you afford to alienate 62% of women and 63% of independents, voting blocs you need to keep the White House in November? What about the majority of voters in Michigan and Wisconsin, two Democrat-turned-Republican states that helped elect President Trump in 2016? There is no rhyme or reason to risk losing these voters to acquire a new conservative so soon when you can easily confirm Barrett during the lame duck session or in President Trump’s second term (assuming he is reelected). Adamantly pushing forward a divisive issue weeks before the election does nothing to improve the Republicans’ chances in November.
Furthermore, your decision loses a key opportunity to rally Republican voters in support of the party on election day. In 2016, 56% of Trump voters cited the Supreme Court pick as “the most important factor” in their decision, while 26% saw it as the primary basis for their vote. If you confirm Barrett before the election, you lose the momentum and encouragement behind these voters. This gives no urgency for Republicans to vote, an especially important factor in an election amidst a pandemic that will likely depress turnout.
Meanwhile, Democrats are weaponizing the issue against you. Their rhetoric of a conservative court threatening to take away health care joined with ads displaying your hypocrisy from 2016, such as with Senator Lindsey Graham, enables the opposition to mobilize their voters. Democrats are angry and ready to turnout over this SCOTUS pick, just like they were four years ago. We won, but that was because our voters were ready to turnout as well. The difference this time, however, is that you are putting the cart before the horse. Confirming Barrett before the election leaves no impetus for Republicans to turnout, but the anger of Democrats will live on and carry them to polling sites.
Another area of backlash goes beyond the polls as we consider the makeup of the Supreme Court itself. Democrats have threatened to pack the court if you follow through on the Barrett nomination, expanding the Court’s size until there is a clear liberal majority. If this is done, the Court will lose all legitimacy and become purely a partisan body. Whenever one side gains power in the White House and the Senate, more justices will be added to sway the majority, and again once the opposition comes into power. This cycle will continually repeat itself. The pretense that court precedent and case law will change based on partisan interests removes the judicial aspect of a judge’s role, reducing them to partisan actors. We cannot allow this to happen and must ensure the integrity of the Court remains solid. This is only possible by holding the confirmation hearings and votes until after the election.
There is no need for political expediency for this pick. President Trump warns of a 4-4 tie in the Court that could ultimately decide the election due to our unique circumstances. However, five of the remaining eight justices are conservative, reducing the likelihood of a tie among ideological lines. Even so, you were not worried in 2016 about a tie in the Supreme Court during the election. Consistency is key.
My position is not from the Democrats, or anywhere outside the party. It is from within the party, among others that are also critical of your actions. I look at a party consumed by partisanship and unaware of its duty to voters with increasing worry and dread. You should have waited until after the election. If Republicans lose the White House, the Senate, or both, it will be on your hands.
A Concerned Conservative
Blake Ziegler is a sophomore at Notre Dame from New Orleans, Louisiana, with double majors in political science and philosophy. He loves anything politics, especially things he doesn’t agree with. For inquiries, he can be reached at [email protected] or @NewsWithZig on Twitter if you want to see more of his opinions.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.