How Mitch McConnell’s gamble on Trump was rewarded in spectacular fashion.
On February 13th 2016, longtime US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in his sleep. The conservative and textualist justice of nearly 30 years left an ideologically deadlocked court. Overnight, the political world was thrown into a frenzied debate on the tradition and protocol of whether or not President Obama should nominate a justice in the final year of his term.
The debate continued for weeks as Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, said that he and the Republican controlled Senate would refuse to hold hearings on any nominee appointed by President Obama. When Obama announced his nominee in March as the Chief Judge of the US Court of Appeals in Washington DC, Merrick Garland, McConnell and Senate Republicans reaffirmed their position on the Senate Floor. “The next justice could fundamentally alter the direction of the Supreme Court and have a profound impact on our country, so of course the American people should have a say in the court’s direction.” He continued, “The Senate will continue to observe the ‘Biden Rule’ so the American people have a voice in this momentous decision. The American people may well elect a president who decides to nominate Judge Garland for Senate consideration. The next president may also nominate somebody very different. Either way, our view is this: Give the people a voice in filling this vacancy.”
McConnell stated that the senate made up their mind on principle rather than the individual. However, he entered the GOP into a dangerous game in his confidence in a Republican victory in November. GOP Senators did not throw the dice on a mainstream conservative candidate to win in November. They gambled on Donald J Trump. The brash, energetic, unconventional billionaire from New York was just coming off huge Super Tuesday victories and well on his way to clearing out the once crowded Republican field.
Throughout the summer Trump continued to run into trouble as the main stream media latched onto every misstep and declared his candidacy dead in the water. Trump continued to march forward ever confident in the “silent majority.” McConnell continued too. The GOP Senate majority refused to hold a hearing on the relatively moderate Garland, even with media proclamations that Donald Trump’s victory chances were near zero. On election day, November 8th, the world witnessed arguably the biggest political upset in the history of the United States as Donald Trump swept the “Obama Coalition” in the Rustbelt in a fashion that little thought was possible. Flanked by his family and future Vice President Governor Mike Pence, Trump stood victorious in the Hilton Midtown Hotel in the heart of New York City in front of hundreds of elated supporters to give a victory speech that seemed so improbable just hours before.
Somewhere in the country there was another man celebrating this unlikely victory. The Senator from Kentucky who bet it all on Trump, Mitch McConnell. Coinciding with Trump’s win, the GOP retained their majorities in the House and the Senate paving the way to a conservative replacement for Scalia and a conservative majority on the court. With President Trump’s nominee coming within the next week, McConnell’s gamble will have paid off for conservatives everywhere.