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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Face Strategic Options on High Court

Manu Raju discusses Democratic strategic options regading Justice Ginsburg’s replacement  at CNN Politics:

The debate underscores the challenge facing Democrats as they try to nail down the right strategy to battle a nomination that appears to be on the glide path to confirmation on the backs of Republicans.

On private conference calls in the aftermath of the death last week of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Democrats have had a wide-ranging discussion about their plans and tactics.

Overwhelmingly, they believe they must focus their message on how the new nominee would jeopardize the health care of millions, with the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court and persistent court challenges against abortion rights. They also believe they should focus on what they view as a blatant power grab by the GOP to jam a nominee through on the eve of a national election, contradicting the Republican refusal to move on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee eight months before the 2016 election.

Fair enough. But Democrats should entertain no delusions that the Republican Senators who will vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick will care much about putting the health care of millions at risk or reproductive rights. Raju adds,

And increasingly, Democrats are trying to steer clear of talk that they would change the makeup of the Supreme Court by adding seats to it if they take the Senate majority this fall, with some arguing that gives the GOP ammunition in the battle for control of the chamber.

“I’m not for retaliatory moves,” said Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, the Democrats’ most vulnerable senator this cycle, pushing back on calls to add seats to the court. He wouldn’t say if he would oppose a Trump pick no matter what.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who also faces voters in November, said: “No” when asked if she backs adding more seats to the court if Democrats take the majority.

“I think the important thing right now is that people need to make our Republican colleagues and the Trump administration aware … if they believe, as I do, that they should let the election go forward and the next president, whoever that is, nominate the nominee to the Supreme Court,” Shaheen said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and progressive firebrand, sidestepped questions when asked if she favored adding seats to the Supreme Court.

“We need to talk about what’s at stake now: What’s at stake in the lives of millions and millions of families,” Warren said Tuesday.

I hope Sens. Jones, Shaheen and Warren are nonetheless ready to kill the filibuster and enlarge the Supreme Court, if need be, as appears more likely, if Dems win the presidency and a senate majority (and if Jones and Shaheen win their races). Meanwhile, Democrats should start start honing their messaging on the topic to include a couple of key talking points.

1. Repeat whenever asked about “packing the court” that it is actually Mitch McConnell who is packing the court. McConnell, Republican senators and Trump have betrayed years of bipartisan agreement to pack the court with extremists. Make it a meme that sticks.

2. But Dems should say they are expanding the court, because the phrase, “packing the court” is using Republican terminology designed to make changing the court’s size sound radical. Dems should note also that the size of the Supreme Court has changed 7 times in U.S. history. The founders allowed flexibility for changing the size of the Supreme Court by not requiring a constitutional amendment.

Democratic senators should not be so intimidated by the GOP’s “packing the court” rhetorical boogeyman. If Trump and McConnell get their 6-3 majority, Democrats don’t have to eat it — if they win both the presidency and a senate majority. That should provide plenty of motivation for Dems to mobilize the most energetic GOTV effort ever.

One comment on “Dems Face Strategic Options on High Court

  1. Martin Lawford on

    “We aren’t packing the Supreme Court, heavens no. We are merely expanding the Supreme Court with nominees chosen by us.”


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