Minutes after President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork to the Supreme Court, Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) roused himself to give a nationally televised speech opposing the nomination. The senator’s speech was such a study in systematic defamation and vilification that it helped coin a new verb—to bork.
Judge Bork said that “there was not a line in that speech that was accurate.” The Economist later noted in its obituary of Kennedy that Bork was right but that the attack “worked.”
A little less than a decade later, Senator Joe Biden gave a speech in which he argued that the Senate’s consideration of a Supreme Court nominee during a presidential election was “not fair to the president, the nominee, or to the Senate itself.” His obvious goal was to undercut any potential Supreme Court nomination from President George H. W. Bush.
But we all know how Democrats reacted when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) applied the “Biden rule” to President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland.
Presidential candidate Cory Booker, the junior U.S. senator from New Jersey, recently commented on Garland’s nomination by claiming Republicans “stole a Supreme Court seat.” He called for a major rethinking of the court’s composure, including potential term limits. We all know that Booker would not call for such measures if President Trump hadn’t successfully appointed two high court justices.
Politics is a notoriously dirty business and politicians are no strangers to hypocrisy. Politicians routinely breach “constitutional norms” and their own supposedly firmly held principles whenever it is politically expedient. Remember when Obama said if Congress didn’t act on immigration reform, he would?
In the rough and tumble business of politics, conservatives have clung to norms and tradition far more than Democrats, especially in recent years. But this is changing—largely because Democrats have shown their hand and the lengths to which they are willing to go to ensure that their preferred policies are enacted.
Conservatives alive to reality have dispelled with the fiction that Democratic politicians and political pundits are interested in anything but power. They have realized that Democrats will bend whatever norms, procedures, and rules they can to ensure that they reach their ends.
Revoke a centuries-old and constitutionally enshrined compact that ensures fair representation of state interests to ensure they win the next election? Perfectly acceptable. Pack the courts to ensure a favorable court composition? Fine by them. Upend the Senate as we know it? Sure, why not.
Any semblance of good faith has vanished and with it the conservatives’ willingness to play in a double-standard ridden system that is consistently rigged against them.
Every recent power grab and breach of norms led by Democrats has shown the hypocrisy of anyone whining that Trump’s national emergency is a gross misuse of power, or that the Republicans’ stonewalling of Garland was a travesty, or that McConnell’s use of the “nuclear option” to confirm Justice Gorsuch was a breach of norms.
If the Democrats can’t win in the system we have, they are happy to upend it and rewrite it until they can.
The latest crop of Democratic candidates has illustrated the lengths to which they are willing to go to and the age-old compromises and precedents they are willing to scrap in order to win. And we should not underestimate their seriousness about this. If the past two years of mudslinging has shown us anything, it is the tenacity of a party desperate to reclaim power and the depths of incivility to which they will plumb if necessary in the pursuit.
They will unironically make the case for adhering to norms and standards when those norms benefit them while adopting a scorched earth strategy for any tradition that happens to stand in their way.
When we hear Democratic candidates make the case for fundamentally transforming the very systems of government and civics that have governed this country for centuries, we must remember that these are the same politicians who indignantly pontificate about how Trump is violating norms and changing the way government operates in unprecedented ways—all while he acts according to the letter of the law.
They don’t care about the means—they only care about the ends.
When Cory Booker opines that he “watched an election where someone won the majority of the votes,” we all know that he would have very different views on the Electoral College if Hillary Clinton had won the election.
The double standard is obvious and reasonable conservatives must understand that their good faith attempts to act in accordance with tradition will be warped and manipulated and used as ammunition against them all while Democrats continue to ride roughshod over the same traditions that in the last breath they so vigorously defended.
Conservatives need only look at the recent comments from Democratic politicians to see the blatant disregard they have for tradition when it opposes their policy objectives.
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