Hey, remember Merrick Garland? The ultra-qualified, bipartisan-praised high court nominee who has been twisting in the wind, a predictable casualty of the Senate GOP’s war on governance?
Turns out, Garland doesn’t look like such a bad nominee after all — at least not to the conservatives who are rightfully panicked by the repugnant ascent of Donald Trump. Some of them realize that Republicans are truly screwed. For the best explanation, I yield the floor to Leon H. Wolf, managing editor RedState, the popular go-to site for activists on the right. Here’s what he wrote yesterday:
Republicans must know that there is absolutely no chance that we will win the White House in 2016 now. They must also know that we are likely to lose the Senate as well. So the choices, essentially, are to confirm Garland and have another bite at the apple in a decade, or watch as President Clinton nominates someone who is radically more leftist and 10-15 years younger, and we are in no position to stop it.
In fact, if I were the Republicans, my main concern right now would be that Barack Obama would withdraw Garland’s nomination today. The fact that Merrick Garland still exists as an option right now is a gift that should not be squandered. The calculus has changed – confirm Merrick Garland before it is too late.
Wolf isn’t alone — among others, conservative commentator and RedState contributor Ben Howe said yesterday, “I strongly believe the Senate should move forward on Garland at this point,” and Tim Carney, a conservative think-tanker, pleaded, “Time to let Merrick Garland through?” — and I get why they’re so concerned. They loathe Trump for a host of reasons, and they’re freaked about the electoral math.
David French, an attorney who handles religious freedom cases and other conservative causes (I was recently on a panel with French; he’s a smart guy), writes this morning about his loathing: “The party of Lincoln is in ruins. A minority of its primary voters have torched its founders’ legacy by voting for a man who combines Democratic ideology, a bizarre form of hyper-violent isolationism, fringer conspiracy theories, and serial lies with an enthusiastic flock of online racists to create perhaps the most toxic electoral coalition since George Wallace.”
But the confirm-Garland conservatives are mostly focused on the math. They’ve seen the polls which show that Trump is disliked by 70 percent of all Americans – the worst nominee rating in the history of polling. They’ve seen the Electoral College maps that portend an election night slaughter (Larry Sabato, one of our best nonpartisan analysts, says of his map: “If anything, we wonder whether our total of 347 EVs for Clinton to 191 EVs for Trump is too generous to the GOP.”) And they’re girding themselves for the Hillary ads that will hang Trump with his own words (like these new ads.)
And these conservatives understand that even if Trump were to win in November, there’s no guarantee that he’d fill the Scalia seat with a Scalia clone – because nobody knows what he really believes, aside from his belief in Himself. Is he the guy who recently said that women who have abortions should be punished (a view he quickly abandoned), or is he the guy who said early in the campaign that Planned Parenthood does good things? Conservatives’ biggest beef with Trump is that he’s not a reliable ideologue.
As the RedState editor pointed out, this is why Republicans are screwed: If Mitch McConnell holds firm and keeps insisting — as his spokesman reiterated yesterday — that Garland’s nomination is DOA and that “the American people should have a voice in this decision,” the American people are likely to hand that decision to Hillary Clinton. Yet even if they hand that decision to Trump, there’s no guarantee that his nominee will be more palatable than Garland.
Meanwhile, between now and November, President Obama and the Democrats will keep squeezing McConnell and his recalcitrant compadres (particularly in states where Republicans are up for re-election). The polls already prove that obstructionism is a loser – roughly two-thirds of Americans want Senate Republicans to at least give Garland a hearing – and that’s another factor that could help turn the chamber Democratic.
Yep, Republicans would be smart to heed what colleague Orrin Hatch said about Garland years ago (“I know of his integrity, I know of his legal ability, I know of his honesty, I know of his acumen”), and put the guy on the high court while they have the chance. But this is not a smart crew. And the worst nightmare scenario – which no conservative would dare utter out loud – is that Clinton’s replacement for Garland, confirmed by a new Democratic Senate, would be…
Hey, why not? It worked that way for William Howard Taft.
Meanwhile, dare we speculate who will join Trump on his ticket? I’ll place two bets: Marco “Little Marco” Rubio (because, as Trump says, “we’re gonna have great relationships with the Hispanics”) – or Sen. Joni Ernst of swing-state Iowa (because, as Trump says, “I will take care of the women”).
Or maybe he won’t even bother with a running mate, because, as he says, “I have a very good brain.”