Leonard Zwelling

While I write this on July 8, it will be posted after the president announces his choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy generated by the retirement of Anthony Kennedy. No matter who that person is, we know that there will be some sort of fight during the confirmation process because the nominee will have passed through the filter of ultra-conservative advisors like the Federalist Society to Mr. Trump and likely will be someone who opposes the Democrat’s social agenda. That being said, even if the Democrats stick together in the Senate, they do not have the votes to reject Trump’s nominee as long as the Republican senators also vote as a bloc. But they might not. Both Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski could vote with the Dems if the nominee is demonstrably opposed to the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the United States. Collins and Murkowski are supposed to be pro-Choice.

But there are at least three senators under even more pressure, These are the senators from Indiana, North Dakota and West Virginia up for election this year who happen to be Democrats from Trump-voting red states. If these three—Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp and Joe Manchin—vote with the Democrats, they could lose their re-election bids. If they vote along the sentiments of their red-leaning constituency, it is likely Trump will get his Supreme Court nominee confirmed. What to do?

It’s actually easy. Win first.

The problem the Democrats have is of their own making. They are out of power in the executive and legislative branches of the federal government and in the majority of the states as well. They lose key elections. If they want to shape the judiciary and should they consider trying to impeach Mr. Trump, they need to win majorities in the Congress to do so. Thus, if voting for Trump’s new nominee allows these three red state Dems to keep their seats in the Senate, they better do so as they did with Neil Gorsuch. The reason Mitch McConnell was able to block the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court is because Democrats keep losing key elections. The GOP had captured the Senate under Obama and thus McConnell had the upper hand and stymied the Garland nomination until after the election. Trump won and the rest, as they say, is history or is about to be.

There really is no substitute for winning. Whether that impacts judicial nominees, redistricting, or impeachment. The Democrats being out of power means that they have no power to do any of the things they want to do. That they still have no frontrunner to challenge Trump in 2020 only crystalizes their dysfunction as a party. They may have their victories on the micro level as they did with the recent upset in the New York congressional primary, but in the end, if the Democrats want another chance at governing they have to win. If they have to make some stinky choices to do so, get on with it.

The Democrats seem incapable of playing the long game and the GOP is great at it. It is my contention that until the Democrats supplant the current leadership of Chick and Nancy and bring in some fresh blood with some new ideas, the party is destined to lose key races across the country and any hope of regaining control of any of the branches of government.

Democrats need to keep their eyes on the prize if they want to make a difference. The Obama power sweep of 2008 is far in the rearview mirror. That was then. This is now.

Win first and the rest will fix itself.

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