The Democratic party is frustrated. This was apparent when Senator Elizabeth Warren took to the Senate floor to criticize President Donald Trump’s cabinet nominations. Most recently, just last week, Chuck Schumer held a press conference to publically condemn the possibility of the current administration using the National Guard to round up undocumented immigrants.
These frustrations are well-warranted and understandable. Just months ago, members of the party likely had a much more optimistic perspective towards the direction of the country. Now, following the Trump’s victory in November, the Democratic Party has scrambled to hold onto some semblance of political influence.
Meanwhile, many constituents have a clear idea for what their representatives’ should be doing: resist everything and everyone in the Trump administration. Marches, protests, and social media outrage have all pointed to the general consensus amongst liberals that Democrats in office should deny Trump any chance to carry out his controversial political vision. Most recently, a political action committee called “We Will Replace You” formed with a simple message: If Democrats fail to block the President, they will be voted out of office and replaced by Democrats that will.
Trump’s cabinet nominations’ confirmation hearings have been ground zero for this Democratic resistance. The nominations of both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have been extremely controversial, and Democrats fought tooth and nail in contentious Senate hearings to block their confirmations. Ultimately, these efforts have been unsuccessful and have served to highlight the ultimate powerlessness that many Democrats feel in their campaign to act as roadblocks to the current administration.
Trump’s final high-profile nominee, his pick for the vacant Supreme Court seat, Neil Gorsuch, will have a confirmation hearing on March 20. This may prove to be the last chance for Democrats to execute a concrete effort to publically antagonize the Trump administration. Whether or not this effort is successful, it would continue to propel forward an ‘us versus them’ narrative. However, while it may be politically attractive to use Gorsuch as an outlet for frustration, Democrats should not attempt to block his Supreme Court confirmation.
The Supreme Court became extremely politicized in 2016. Beginning with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia last February, the Republican majority held steadfast in its position that it would not confirm any replacement from then-President Obama. As a result, the topic of Supreme Court picks became a highly-debated point of discussion in the 2016 Presidential Election. Rather than focusing on their potential Supreme Court nominee’s ability to interpret the Constitution and set precedents, candidates on both sides focused on highly relevant political issues. Donald Trump, when asked about the qualities of his pick, emphasized that they would make abortion rights an issue for states decide upon. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton emphasized that her picks would work to overturn the controversial Citizens United decision regarding campaign finance.
While these answers may serve to impassion voter bases, they do a great disservice to the role of the Supreme Court in American politics. The role of justices is not to respond to the political issue of the moment, but rather to make a decision that will set a lasting precedent. Many times these decisions may not result in the most politically popular outcome, but they almost always are made with precedent and future implications in mind.
For example, in 2013, the landmark Shelby County V. Holder decision controversially struck down certain provisions in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. While this was an extremely divisive outcome, the Court was clear in its ruling that the federal government could not overstep its bounds in states’ rights without sufficient evidence.
It is rulings such as this one that serve to emphasize that the Supreme Court has almost always prioritized long-standing impacts over immediate and contemporary reactions. There is a reason, after all, why Supreme Court Justices are not elected officials that attempt to appease a temperamental electorate. Neil Gorsuch’s distinguished tenure as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals should be validation enough for his ability to serve as a capable and prescient Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. If Democrats attempt to further politicize the Supreme Court nomination process for good media looks, they will risk alienating the public from the true role of the Supreme Court.
While it may be a popular maneuver for Democrats to oppose all of President Trump’s moves, it is not pragmatic strategy for winning back the votes lost to the Republican Party. It is important that the frustrations felt by Democratic representatives and their constituents alike do not begin to impede on the execution of tangible policy agendas. This divisive political environment calls for politicians on both sides to put country before political identity and instead work for the common good.