In many ways, the circus that plagued the beginning of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court confirmation hearing is a microcosm of our broader political problems in Washington. Voters handed Republicans the gavel of the Senate committees, yet they willingly cede it over to Democrats and anarchists. Democrats are the sun and Republicans are the moon. They operate solely within the Democrat paradigm.
In 2016, I called upon Chuck Grassley to step down as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee because he essentially gave Democrats control of too many of the witnesses at critical hearings and, contrary to his entire career’s work, began supporting the jailbreak legislation of the very members who interrupted him today. Everybody saw on display today how Grassley essentially has no control over the committee. Grassley allowed Democrats to block his opening statement by heckling him, and he allowed them to give speeches without being recognized. It took him 75 minutes to deliver his own opening statement, and even then, it was interrupted endlessly by outside protesters. Not once did the Democrats, who liberally spoke out of turn, use their out-of-order comments to tell their supporters in the audience to quiet down, except for when they themselves were interrupted. Durbin even praised the interruptions as an exercise of democracy.
Even when Grassley finished his opening statement, he gave Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member, yet another turn for an opening statement.
Thus, even though Democrats would have endless opportunities to air their complaints and hurl their insults at Kavanaugh with two rounds of opening statements, Grassley legitimized their illegitimate gripes by allowing them to seize the floor. Though Kavanaugh has 12 years of experience on the second highest court of the land, with over 300 written opinions, Democrats were allowed to frame this debate as one of lack of transparency. All of Grassley’s gestures and overtures got him nothing but the establishment of a precedent to talk over his gavel for the remainder of the week.
This is what happens when you run from a barking dog rather than standing your ground. You can never placate Democrats’ aggression. They will just use your concession as strategic ground from which to launch the next attack.
Grassley would have been well served to give Democrats the treatment he has given Jeff Sessions while opposing the attorney general in support of the Durbin/Feinstein/Schumer jailbreak agenda. Yet establishment Republicans seem to put on their game faces only when dealing with conservatives.
This is the lesson of Grassley’s tenure as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. And it is essentially the lesson of contemporary politics. Democrats believe in their vision with all their heart and soul and will tear your heart out in pursuit of those ends. They pursue a “heads I win, tails I win” strategy whereby they control government even when they lose elections. They seek a judiciary that will serve as a policy-making body for their chosen outcomes and want those outcomes walled off as precedent while seeking to nullify court opinions they disagree with.
And Republicans have no counter-agenda. Other than Mike Lee, nobody else cut to the core of the issue with the judiciary and what its purpose is. This would have been a perfect moment for Republicans to extend a hand to Democrats and say, “All right, let’s abolish judicial supremacy in all cases if you fear a 5-4 conservative majority.” But there is no counter-agenda. They think that merely appointing better judges will change a system Democrats have already rigged as heads they win/tails they win a long time ago.
Which brings us to the point about lost opportunities with judicial nominees. If Republicans will not work to reassert control of the other branches over the courts, and instead place their full trust in appointing better judges, why not go for the best? Democrats have shown that they are willing to go nuclear and turn hearings into lynch mobs even for someone who considers himself a disciple of Anthony Kennedy. They accuse him of plotting to overturn Roe and Obergefell, yet we have absolutely no confidence he would do any of that. We never nominate guaranteed Clarence Thomas judges.
Nice guys who like to be overly deferential to the other side in politics get treated the same way as a kid who runs from a barking dog. Look no further than Chuck Grassley and Judiciary Committee Republicans as an example.
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.