Sheldon Whitehouse’s Shockingly Awesome Gorsuch Statement

There’s been a lot of bullshit peddled by the press and by insiders that Neil Gorsuch can’t be beaten, that Democrats don’t have a message. He’s just so qualified, says the American Bar Association, Obama hack Neil Katyal (who is talking his book practicing before the court), and his former clerks. Essentially this is all coming from BigLaw firms. BigLaw firms — both on the Democratic and Republican sides — love a court that rules for their big business clients. He’s so qualified, they argue. Gorsuch is polite, rarely late, and has many leather bound books.

Well Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, in his opening statement at the Gorsuch nominating hearings, isn’t having it. Gorsuch, he said, will fight for big corporations versus actual ‘humans’ in every arena possible.

Whitehouse eviscerated Gorsuch as a payoff to a big conservative political machine. The special interests who financed the campaign to put Gorsuch on the court, he said, “obviously think that you will be worth their money”. Beyond that, he points out, John Roberts sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee and lied that he would just be an unbiased umpire calling balls and strikes. Roberts then went on the court and ruled for big business in every case that came before the court which involved big business. “Once burned, twice shy,” said Whitehouse. Gorsuch will join a court that ruled for big business in everything from class actions to labor to jury systems to voting rights. Whitehouse listed a litany of cases and their impacts, with this one as a particular kicker, “Help insulate investment bankers against fraud claims? Why not?”

The special interests that financed this big business takeover of the court is not principled, said Whitehouse, it isn’t intellectual, it is simply a “delivery service” for big business. Gorsuch is highly qualified, Whitehouse noted. But fundamentally Gorsuch is a payoff to the special interest groups that will profit from his rulings.

It’s important to note here that Whitehouse is making a broader claim about the court. His point isn’t just that Gorsuch should be rejected, but that Democrats should have no respect for the legitimacy of the court so long as the court serves a role as a cog in a corrupt big business machine. He’s pointing to a long-term strategy, regardless of whether Gorsuch wins. The Democrats are going to try and strip the court of the powers that it no longer deserves, because the routine bad faith big business friendly rulings that eviscerate our democratic traditions. The court itself has set itself up for this through decades of malevolent ruling to help big business. The American public is losing faith in its rulings, and that faith is in reality the only real power the court has. Most elite lawyers won’t say this, because they don’t want to anger the establishment they depend on for social, political, and financial currency. But they all know it.

Whitehouse is a very smart lawyer. It is a BIG deal to have an elite credentialed legal thinker like Whitehouse saying what we all know, which is that the Supreme Court is at this point an entirely political and anti-democratic chokepoint meant to sustain Republican and big business dominance of American culture.

Now that’s a populist message.