By Ian Silverii*
He’s a nice guy.
He’s a fair and good jurist.
Well, he could be worse.
If everything is an outrage, nothing is.
These are some of the arguments I hear from friends, political operatives, and conservatives and progressives alike when discussing the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court by President Trump.
None of these arguments hold water.
Conservatives in Colorado lead with the fact that Judge Gorsuch is a fourth-generation Coloradan. They say he’s a consummate jurist, and remind us that he was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. They say that he has earned degrees from Harvard, Oxford and Columbia, that he lives on a small farm in Boulder and likes to fly fish.
But Judge Gorsuch isn’t running for Governor of Colorado. If he were, these would all be fine points to make in television ads; and no doubt Colorado Democrats would have a competitive Republican gubernatorial candidate to face for the first time in years.
No, Judge Gorsuch has been nominated for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States. That’s because, when Justice Scalia died and Former President Obama exercised his constitutional right to nominate Judge Merrick Garland to fill the seat, Republicans allowed the seat to remain vacant for more than 50 weeks. They refused to give Judge Garland a fair hearing and a vote, and they did so on the grounds that it was their seat to fill.
Now, in a breathtaking and staggering display of hypocrisy, Republicans are engaging in full-on partisan grandstanding, demanding that the U.S. Senate hold confirmation hearings and vote on Judge Gorsuch.
No matter that they jeopardized the integrity and independence of the court by breaking historical precedent in refusing to meet with and vote on President Obama’s nominee, and by making the Supreme Court a partisan political football leading up to and during the 2016 General Election.
No matter that Republicans perpetuated a strategy that entails running and getting a good gig based on the fact that government is broken by actually breaking it, thereby legitimizing their message and argument, and that they allowed these dangerous tactics to extend to undermining the Supreme Court of the United States.
I am fortunate enough to have a paying gig where my job is, in part, to advance progressive issues and values I deeply believe in. It should come as a surprise to no one that I and other progressives fundamentally disagree with Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record and well-documented positions on issues, including and especially his positions on medical aid in dying, abortion, and the rights of corporations in relation to the rights of individuals. Judge Gorsuch has worked and ruled against immigrants, people with disabilities, women trying to access birth control, workers, LGBTQ folks, and people trying to get money out of politics, among many, many others.
But that progressives overwhelmingly disagree with Judge Gorsuch’s beliefs is only part of the reason why he should not be the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.
It is because the seat was never his, nor was it ever President Trump’s to fill.
So, the question is: what should be done in this moment?
Senate Democrats should vote against confirmation and extend Judge Gorsuch the same courtesy shown to Judge Garland—that is to say none.
(They won’t do it, but) Senate Republicans should give Judge Garland the fair hearing and vote he was owed in the first place. If they choose to vote against his confirmation, so be it, but the process will at least have been restored to something resembling normalcy.
Then, when the next vacancy comes up for the Supreme Court, President Trump should feel free to nominate Judge Gorsuch or any other qualified jurist to take that seat because at that point it will be theirs to fill.
Finally, all those freshly energized people seeking outlets to get engaged, to demonstrate, and to take action must remember this: the Republican Party prioritized personal political ideology above protecting the integrity of the most important court in the country, and they’re getting away with it.
None of us should let them.
*Ian Silverii is the executive director of ProgressNow Colorado and formerly served as chief of staff to Colorado Speaker of the House Dickey Lee Hullinghorst.