Here’s What Obama Should Do About that Vacant Supreme Court Seat (If He’s Smart)
President Obama has not had the best of luck when it comes to dealing with the Republican-dominated Congress. But he has a tremendous chance to play some hardball politics in the coming eight months in regard to the controversy over whether the Senate should even consider any nominee of his to the current vacancy on the Supreme Court. (As of a couple hours ago, it appears that Republicans have not yet settled on a final strategy. It seems that some want to not even consider any Obama nominee; others would prefer to consider a nominee, and then reject that person. In either case Republicans want to prevent anyone with a Democratic bent from taking over a conservative’s seat on the court.)
It is not the purpose of this piece to take sides in this fight. I can certainly understand the arguments of each. I am simply advising the President what he should do if he wants to have the best chance of winning this fight. Obama does not want a Republican victory in November. Much, if not most, of what he has accomplished — however you want to measure that — may be wiped out if the Republicans win. (I hope I’m not talking about the gains in the stock market.) He is also smart enough to know that the Democrats need a big turnout in November for their best chances at winning. And a big turnout would demand a big participation by African Americans and Hispanics. Call me skeptical, but I just don’t see Hillary or Bernie bringing out tremendous numbers of minority voters, at least in comparison to what Obama brought out in 2008 and 2012. And neither candidate would have very long coattails. (Again, this is just my opinion, and it only takes into account the pull of the two Democratic candidates. I am not taking into account the pluses or minuses of the prospective Republican nominee.) But what COULD help bring out those extra voters are ISSUES THAT GET PEOPLE EMOTIONAL, people who might be inclined to stay at home on election day. And the empty Supreme Court vacancy has the potential of being such an issue.
Here’s what Obama should do. I have seen the “short list” of his potential candidates, according to media sources. There is one candidate who shines above the others because of her potential to ignite voter turnout: Loretta Lynch. Ms. Lynch is already U.S. Attorney General so in all likelihood, she will be out of a job when the new President is signed in. Furthermore, she can remain Attorney General while she is vetted by the Senate. However, she has already undergone that process for her current job so there should not be too many surprises that can arise.
And why do I say a long, contentious, bitter nomination fight would be a real boon to the Democrats? Because Ms. Lynch would be the FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMAN on the Supreme Court! She would be only the fifth woman on that “august” bench in our country’s history (over 200 years, y’all), but there never has been a woman of her color. If this be racial politics, so be it. I am not judging; I am simply stating a fact. (Though not likely to be discussed nearly as much, Ms. Lynch would bring about another sea change, becoming the only Protestant on the Court if confirmed. Right now there are five Catholics and three Jews on the bench. Mr. Scalia was also a Catholic.)
In a campaign where just about everyone who’s predicted anything has been proven wrong, I could easily join their ranks, but I see a real danger to Republicans if they oppose Ms. Lynch simply because they feel it’s not right for a President to choose a new Justice in his last year of office. They might have precedent on their side, but that won’t keep a lot of minority voters from getting pissed off. The Republicans’ best bet would be to stress how federal law would change if Ms. Lynch were confirmed and get “the people” on their side. I believe they would concentrate on issues such as Obamacare, gun laws, abortion, their view of how the American family should be defined, religious rights, activist judges… Feel free to fill in the others. The Republicans would be well-advised to tread lightly if their genuine concerns are viewed as simple obstructionism by the majority of voters. Remember, they took more than half the heat for the government “shutdowns” during Newt Gingrich’s leadership and in 2013. And despite what we’ve seen from some of their debaters, a respectful tone might be in order. For months, they practically salivated at the chance to get Ms. Clinton in front of the Benghazi committee. And they really went after her. That didn’t go so well for them.
Ms. Lynch has already been through the Senate grinder before and seems to have survived it. If she is willing to undergo even more scrutiny, it could be the Democrats’ best bet to bring out a higher-than-normal voter turnout this fall. And Obama’s (along with Ms. Clinton’s or Mr. Sanders’) best opportunity to maintain control of the executive branch.