From its beginning, US law, following that of the United Kingdom, has been based on legal precedent – that the outcome in one case is binding or persuasive in the outcomes of subsequent cases with similar circumstances.
However, in recent years, conservatives have increasingly chosen to ignore precedent. That is certainly true in the case of the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, the unleashing anonymous political donations by Citizens United, and the weakening of abortion rights as established by Roe v. Wade. In each case, conservative justices on the Supreme Court of the United States have decided that their conservative political views outweighed precedents previously established by the Court.
Similarly, the US Senate under Moscow Mitch McConnell has ignored long-established precedent to steal two seats on the Supreme Court.
In the entire history of the US, there have been four previous vacancies on the Court that occurred between July 1 and a presidential election. In three of those cases, beginning with Abraham Lincoln, the president refused to nominate a judicial candidate to fill the open seat until after the inauguration of the next president. In the other case, the president nominated a candidate. But the Senate refused to hold hearings on the nomination until after the election.
In addition, there have been nine vacancies on the Court between January 1 and July 1 of the same year of a presidential election. In eight of those cases, the president nominated judicial candidates who received Senate hearings and were confirmed. The lone exception is President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland, which was blocked by Moscow Mitch who claimed the vacancy occurred too close to the election and should be held open for the next president to fill.
Now we come to the vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
For the first time in history, the Senate under the leadership of Moscow Mitch has vowed to confirm and seat a nomination by Donald J. Trump before the election. Precedent and Justice Ginsburg’s dying wish be damned.
This win at all costs mentality has become a hallmark of Trump, McConnell and the GOP. Rather than following precedent and principle, they choose to divide. Trump has blamed Democratic governors and blue states for his own failures, even going so far as to prioritize PPE for red states. He then stated that if it were not for the pandemic deaths in blue states, the administration’s response to the pandemic would look much better. Indeed, that fits the pattern of the entire GOP. When in power, GOP officials almost entirely dismiss the opinions and wishes of their political opponents. They initiate voter suppression measures and gerrymandering to hold onto power. And, when in the minority, they routinely resort to parliamentary tricks to block Democratic initiatives.
It is this mentality that is responsible for the increasingly violent political division in the US. How can you debate policy issues and achieve consensus when only one party is willing to come to the table?