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Garlanded: Smart Republicans Need To Find Their Inner Brain

| March 22, 2016

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has different ideas. (DonkeyHotey)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has different ideas. (DonkeyHotey)

By Martin Dyckman

In 1789, as the new United States of America was just taking root, Thomas Jefferson wrote to a friend that “If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all.”

The quotation is making one of its frequent rounds on the Internet.


The remark was ironic, if not to say hypocritical, considering Jefferson’s subsequent energetic role in organizing the anti-Federalist movement into what he called the Democratic Republican Party. Present-day Democrats claim him and Andrew Jackson as co-founders.

But the full context — rarely quoted — of what he wrote makes great sense now as a trenchant description of how the party system has gone off the cliff.

“I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything where I was capable of thinking for myself,” Jefferson explained. “Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven…”

Party discipline, the plague that Jefferson deplored, gives us a U.S. Senate whose majority party leader refuses even to permit the body to consider fulfilling its constitutional duty to approve or reject a president’s nominee to fill a vacancy on the nation’s highest court.

Moreover, in rationalizing why he would not allow it even in a post-election session should there be a Democratic president-elect, Mitch McConnell had this to say:

“I can’t imagine that a Republican majority Congress in a lame duck session after the American people have spoken would want to confirm a nominee opposed by the NRA, the NFIB, and the New York Times says he would move the court dramatically to the left. This nomination ought to be made by the next president.”

What he really was saying is this: Even if the next president is a Democrat, and even if the Republicans lose their Senate majority, they’ll fight hard, they’ll fight long, they’ll fight dirty, and they’ll filibuster to keep anybody opposed by the likes of the gun lobby and the National Federation of Independent Business from replacing Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court.

He neglected to mention the Koch brothers. One of their front organizations declared war on any Barack Obama nominee even before he selected one.


McConnell can’t even get his sources right, let alone his constitutional duty.


Now I cannot find in the Constitution — nor can McConnell — anything that says a president’s second term is for only three years rather than four. Or anything to say that lobbies unelected by the people or billionaires whose father was a John Bircher have veto power over what used to call itself the “greatest deliberative body in the world.”

Nor is anything to be found in the New York Times online files where the newspaper ever asserted that Merrick Garland’s confirmation would “move the court dramatically to the left.” What the paper did say, in an article describing Garland as essentially a centrist, was this:

“Conservative groups, who said Judge Garland would move the court sharply to the left, raised questions about his commitment to gun rights, although they based their objection on fairly thin evidence.” (Emphasis supplied)

McConnell can’t even get his sources right, let alone his constitutional duty.

(For the record, the NRA’s objection to Garland appears to owe entirely to his vote in one case: the challenge to the District of Columbia’s strict firearms law. After a panel of three other judges voted 2-1 to overturn it, Garland voted in the minority that the entire court should rehear the case. Such a procedural vote does not necessarily predict how he would vote on the merits. The case went directly to the Supreme Court instead, where Scalia wrote the opinion in a 5-4 decision rejecting the law — and a century’s worth of precedents — by finding an individual constitutional right to own firearms.)

The Republican Senate’s pathetic submission to McConnell and the right-wing lobbies is reason enough for voters to elect a Democratic majority.

context floridaAnd now that Marco Rubio has returned to his Senate duties, owing his party nothing, it would be a good time for him to join the handful of other Republican senators who have said they would be willing to give Garland the hearing that he — and the American people — deserve.

This isn’t to suggest that the Democrats are virginal on the question of senseless party discipline. At their 1992 convention in New York, they infamously kept Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey off the speaker’s rostrum because he wanted to say how it was possible to be both liberal and opposed to abortion.

But not since Robert Bork’s nomination in 1987 have the Democrats defeated a Republican President’s Supreme Court nominee. Even in Bork’s case, two Democrats defected in his favor despite the prevailing view that he was an extremist. Six Republicans voted no. The majority party also gave him the floor vote he demanded despite the Judiciary Committee’s disfavor.

The nation will need Republicans to break ranks en masse in the eventuality that the uncouth, erratic, self-centered and dangerously demagogic Donald Trump becomes their nominee for president.

Already, such hack party figures as Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi are crawling aboard the perceived victor’s bandwagon for whatever favors a President Trump might bestow.

Republicans who truly respect their party, on the other hand, will not want a chronically dishonest racist with no coherent policy proposals to symbolize the party of Abraham Lincoln to the nation and to the world. One Nixon was enough, and he was a gentleman compared to Trump.

Some Republicans oppose Trump because he has strayed from their ideologies in the past, others because they fear they couldn’t control him, and others because he simply disgusts them. That last reason is the compelling one.

As another Republican president, Rutherford B. Hayes, said at his inaugural, “He serves his party best who serves his country best.”

martin dyckmanMartin Dyckman covered local, state and national government and politics and wrote editorials and opinion columns during a 46-year career with the St. Petersburg Times, where he retired in 2006 as associate editor. He is the author of three books. He lives in western North Carolina.

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14 Responses for “Garlanded: Smart Republicans Need To Find Their Inner Brain”

  1. Veteran says:

    If Garland is confirmed, say goodbye to the second amendment.

  2. Jim says:

    Hey Marty how soon you forget that Joe Biden did THE SAME EXACT THING when Bush was President…i guess it was ok then cause it was the democrats telling Bush NO WAY…. You cant have both ways Marty….life’s a bitch sometimes…ain’t it!

  3. Dave says:

    I’m surprised you didn’t praise Joe Biden in 1992 for his No nominations to the Supreme Court in an election year .

  4. Shrimpley Pibbles says:

    Herp a derp, build a wall benghazi 0bamma. Did I cover all of the standard trumpian talking points?

  5. Sherry says:

    Wait a minute, , , in 1992 there was NOT a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Joe Biden did NOT refuse to even meet with a Supreme Court nominee, NO matter who that nominee may be!

    Although, BOTH political parties have routinely resisted having the President of an opposing party appoint a Supreme Court Justice. . . that’s merely a political stance. However, that is NO EXCUSE for the Senate REFUSING to fulfill it’s CONSTITUTIONAL DUTY to hold a hearing and a vote on ANY nominee put forth by a sitting US President!!!

    In yet another act of complete “obstructionism” , immediately after Justice Scalia’s death, Senate leader Mitch McConnell stated that this Senate would BREAK ALL PRECEDENTS and REFUSE to even consider ANY nominee suggested by twice elected President Obama!!!!

    This is just the latest in a very long list of ways this Republican Congress is doing everything they can to STOP THE WILL of the majority of American People and greatly delay the judicial process across our nation. . . this from Politico:

    The GOP-controlled Senate is on track this year (2016) to confirm the fewest judges since 1969, a dramatic escalation of the long-running partisan feud over the ideological makeup of federal courts.

    Republicans appear willing to absorb criticism that they’re interfering with the prerogative of a president to pick his nominees in the hope that the GOP can get its own judges installed in 2017, with one of their own in the White House. In the meantime, federal courts could be left with dozens of unfilled vacancies. More than two dozen federal courts have declared “ judicial emergencies” because of excessive caseloads caused by vacancies.

  6. Just me says:

    I disagree that this is a problem in or for the Rs only. As others have pointed out the Ds said basically the same thing the difference was that when they said NO nominee would be confirmed there was NO openings. So IMO that’s worse. On to the real issue within the Senate. The problem IS about party over the Republic. This is because of the 17th amendment that TOOK away the rights of the States to appoint their voice in DC to the senate as the State sees fit. The Senates loyalty now belongs to party over State ,Constitution or the Republic it made.

  7. Sherry says:

    This from Politifact.com:

    (Harry) Reid said Senate Democrats “have never held up a Supreme Court nomination.”

    Reid steps a little too far in saying Democrats “have never held up” a nomination. They were chiefly responsible for Bork’s failed nomination, a turning point in the political nature of Supreme Court nominations, and they at least symbolically attempted to hold up Alito’s confirmation in 2005.

    However, we can’t find a time when a Democratic Senate refused to hear a Republican president’s nominee. Even if they were opposed, they allowed the nominee to come to a confirmation vote.

  8. Dave says:

    Sherry: True there was no vacancy in 1992, but nonetheless, Biden took to the floor in a speech addressing the Senate president to urge delay if a vacancy did appear. But he didn’t argue for a delay until the next president began his term, as McConnell is doing. He said the nomination process should be put off until after the election, which was on Nov. 3, 1992. The repubs are just using Biden’s position of sorts.

  9. Dave says:

    And the way I see it, there needs to be term limits on everyone in Congress and also the Supreme court.
    Being elected for life as a Supreme court Judge is a mistake in these times.

  10. Obama 2016 says:

    Joe Biden in 1992 said what he did because it was almost July and both the GOP and Dem nominations had been finalized. THIS STARTED IN FEB WITH 300+ DAYS LEFT in Obama’s term. Today I am hearing Obama should be doing his job but last week I heard he shouldn’t because he is in the last year of his presidency.

    Again, the GOP has refused to do the work of the people. Like them or not, The Dems at least listen and use reason to be a pain.

    #DOYOURJOB

  11. Sherry says:

    NO Dave they are not just following Biden’s idea! The Senate’s flat refusal to even meet with and consider ANY nominee put forth by our current President, who was rightfully elected twice by a majority of the people, is completely outrageous, unprecedented and likely to be found unconstitutional!

    Although I personally agree about some term limits being better for our governing bodies, unless or until those laws are changed the Senate needs to fulfill their constitutional obligations instead of yet again OBSTRUCTING the will of the people! What people are sick of is Congress stopping our government process for purely political reasons.

  12. Rich Mikola says:

    Just follerin’ the Biden, Schumer, and Senator Obama rule.

  13. Sherry says:

    Here’s the email I, and many others, received from Joe Biden this morning:

    Good morning, folks —

    In a few hours, I’ll be heading over to Georgetown University’s Law Center, where I’m going to speak to you about why it’s so vitally important that Chief Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination gets the consideration our Constitution affords it.

    Now, between all the back-and forth you hear from all sides — from pundits and from your own members of Congress — I know it’s often hard to know what’s what in these political debates.

    And that’s on all of us to fix. Our politics are clearly broken. But what we need to make sure right now is that Washington’s dysfunction doesn’t become a constitutional crisis.

    At the end of the day, no matter your politics, this comes down to the simple but vital obligation that we all have to do our jobs.

    Most Americans go to work every day understanding that they’ve got a job to do. There are days when you might not want to. But you don’t have the luxury of simply deciding not to work because it’s not convenient for you.

    Neither should a United States Senator.

    And right now, the United States Senate has a job to do. The Constitution has written a straightforward description of what that job calls for:

    It says the President “shall” appoint someone to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, with the Senate’s “Advice and Consent.”

    That includes consulting and voting. Voting in favor, or voting against – but voting.

    Saying nothing, seeing nothing, reading nothing, and hearing nothing is not an option.

    In my 36 years in the United States Senate, the Constitution was always our guidepost. Which meant that every single Supreme Court nominee got a hearing, a committee vote, and a floor vote. Period.

    If our Senators don’t do that this time, it could be an entire year before the highest court in our nation is able to do its job the way the Constitution requires it to do.

    Folks, this is important. And it affects every single one of us.

    That’s what I’ll be talking about today. I hope you’ll listen in.

    -Joe

    Vice President Joe Biden

  14. Sherry says:

    The latest polls say the majority of American want Congress to do their job and confirm the appointment of Garland to the Supreme Court. Here yet again, our Congressional representatives are actively working against the will of the people! Time to clean out the “obstructionists” from Congress. . . both houses!
    Remember this at election time. . . Vote Them Out!

    This from CNN:

    Washington (CNN) Following President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court, a new CNN/ORC poll finds two-thirds of Americans want the Senate to hold confirmation hearings on his candidacy, and a majority of Americans say the Senate should ultimately vote to confirm him.

    According to the survey, 52% say Garland ought to be confirmed

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