Gorsuch vs. Sotomayor

It is surprising that, throughout the convolutions of the Gorsuch hearings, no mention has been made of Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whose nomination and confirmation were – with one important difference – a mirror image of the present proceedings.

Back in 2009, the Democrats had a substantial majority in the Senate but not quite enough to prevent a filibuster.  Although it's retrospectively hard to believe, POTUS Obama nominated Sotomayor claiming she was a moderate liberal.  The Republicans grumbled, pointing out that she "thinks her own personal agenda is more important than the law as written" and citing several highly biased and embarrassingly irrational statements.  With regard to her competence, Senator Mitch McConnell noted that nine out of her ten decisions that reached the Supreme Court had been reversed.

Although a strict party vote would have enabled a filibuster, Republican senators chose not to do so.  Perhaps they feared Hispanic backlash in future elections.  Or perhaps they feared that Democrats would invoke the "nuclear" option of killing the 60-vote rule for confirmations – which they later did for federal judgeships.  Instead, Republicans bit the bullet and accepted the inevitability of Sotomayor's confirmation.  Nine Republicans actually voted for her.

The results have been embarrassing, even for many Democrats.  Sonia's emotive outbursts of racist decisions and crude remarks have earned her the distinction (in a recent evaluation  published in the New York Times) of being the most extreme leftist in the current Court – even more liberal that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feat worthy of the Guinness Book of Records.

Now, when the tables are turned, the Democrats have decided to take off their gloves and fight dirty.  On the one hand, they threaten a filibuster; on the other, they waffle about how it was OK when they abolished filibusters for confirmations but would be wrong if the Republicans did it.  Their excuse, as exemplified by a recent NYT editorial, is that Democratic intransigence is payback for the stonewalling that Merrick Garland's nomination received from the Republicans.  The obvious answer is that the Garland affair was payback for Obama's outrageous insertion of an irrationally biased second-rate judge into the hallowed chambers of our Supreme Court.

The best strategy for the Republican senators might be to let the Democrats filibuster for a week or two, until the American public is thoroughly disgusted with their tantrums, and then reluctantly invoke the nuclear option "in order to get back to more urgent matters."  Hopefully, voters will remember Democratic partisanship and Republican moderation during the next senatorial elections.

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