The way I asked the questions yesterday was:
Will liberals overreach and show too much of a raging desire to control the Court and make it solidly liberal at long last, touching off a reaction among conservatives? Or will conservatives flare up with hostility to women's rights and gay rights and affirmative action and all the many issues that make them look too mean and ugly?I gave some balance to it, a question for both parties, but you can see by the difference between my questions that the GOP is tempted in a different way, lured to move the social issues forward and alienate people. Like what happened back in the War of 2012, the War on Women.
But let's see why Cassidy thinks the GOP is exposed in a way that the Democrats are not. He's saying that political maneuvering to hold the nomination for the next President is an "apparent contravention of precedent and the U.S. Constitution." Nice use of the word "apparent" to avoid responsibility for an actual constitutional law interpretation.
But, really, does it matter what the Constitution means? (Especially now that Scalia is dead. It can mean whatever we need it to mean now. The bulwark is gone. Let creativity run wild.)
Just as Donald Trump wrings political energy out of saying that Ted Cruz is not a "natural born citizen," Democrats can get something out of saying Obama has the right to fill the vacancy. The President has a power to nominate new Justices, subject to the check of the Senate, which must confirm. It's balanced power, to be played out politically.
So what if the GOP-dominated Senate plays hard? Cassidy says it will "prompt" "outrage" "among Democrats and independent-minded Americans who dislike partisan warfare." The GOP "appears to be intent on hurtling into a deep pit." Obviously, Cassidy wants to scare the Republican Senators away from pushing back, checking the President's power with their own power, but you've got to play chess games looking ahead several moves.
The GOP will also say it's partisan politics, and this argument will be boosted by the usual claim that liberal Supreme Court Justices infuse their opinions with political preference that does not belong in constitutional interpretation. They'll celebrate their dead icon Scalia, whose method of interpretation will be presented as politically neutral and legally solid. We need another Justice like him, they will say. How terrible to allow Obama to install the 5th vote that achieves a liberal majority on the Court, they will say. Not only is the delay crucial, but the next President must be a conservative, they will say.
If the Republicans block the nomination without properly considering it, which also seems likely, a huge political row will ensue, enveloping the Presidential race...."Dancing a jig"?! Dancing on a man's grave? Is it not obvious how the GOP will respond? That was the basis of my question yesterday: "Will liberals overreach and show too much of a raging desire to control the Court and make it solidly liberal at long last, touching off a reaction among conservatives?"
Small wonder, some senior Democrats already appear to be dancing a jig.
The jig of raging desire is revolting to those who do not share the Democratic orientation.
ADDED: The title of this post is the title of Cassidy's essay that appears with the essay, but in the sidebar "Most Popular" list the title is "Will Scalia’s Death Boost the Democrats?" That's a much uglier image, depicting the dead body as a step stool. The Democrats are just hopping up on it. In the more sober title, the bad behavior comes from the Republicans and the Democrats stand by decorously, merely accepting what is handed to them.
AND: Here's the membership of the Senate Judiciary Committee, through which any nomination must pass. One notable face: Ted Cruz. What an opportunity for him to perform in The Theater of Proper Constitutional Interpretation. The GOP hold the majority and can calmly control the vote. The trick will be maintaining scrupulous dignity and veneration of constitutional principle. Expect Antonin Scalia to be canonized as the Saint of Constitutional Principle. The Democrats will not have him as their scary monster anymore. Dead, he's an angel. It will be hard to say his seat should be filled by someone unlike him.
That game has been played successfully: I'm thinking of the vicious fight that flared up when George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to take the seat that Thurgood Marshall had vacated. That happened in 1991, with the presidential election a year away. Bush won that fight, even with a Democratic majority on the Judiciary Committee, but he proceeded to lose the election. Obama doesn't face reelection, so he can perhaps absorb the heat, and he has an opportunity to pick someone that will be very damaging for the other party to attack. I'm sure he's working on an exquisitely strategy.
ALSO: "Scalia's Grave-Dancers Deserve a Harsh Verdict," by Stephen Carter.