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March 17, 2016

Back when the Republicans took control of the United States Senate, Mitch McConnell vowed to prove that the Republicans could govern. And there’s been progress. Instead of shutting down the entire federal government as usual, McConnell has only shut down the part that performs the constitutional function of advice and consent for Supreme Court nominees. The question is, why? And the answer is most likely that the GOP base – the radical rich – want the nomination scuttled.

We’ve seen different reasons of course. First we heard that a president shouldn’t nominate a candidate in an election year so that the people can decide in November. Stuff and nonsense.  The people knew what they were doing when they twice elected President Barack Obama to full four year terms, and polling tells us that the American people want the Senate to hold hearings on Obama’s nominee, the respected jurist Merrick Garland.

Yesterday the GOP leadership issued a new talking point to the independent thinking heads of the membership: Obama has so trampled the Constitution with his executive orders that he doesn’t deserve an appointment. But Republicans have had no problem testing the president’s executive orders in the courts, sometimes with success. This excuse is meant for talk radio listeners.

So the American people want the process to go forward, the Constitution lays out a process for it, and the Republican excuses are transparent blather.

The donor class is very threatened by the possibility of a Court that does not cater to big money. Wealthy donors care about tax cuts and deregulation, and the courts play a huge role in determining the constitutionality of regulations and enforcement. Big money – the Koch brothers, DeVos clan, Paul Singer, Foster Friess, etc. – care a lot that corporations are people my friend and that money is speech. Citizens United granted those investors in our democracy nearly unlimited power to mold the nation’s politics and they don’t want to give it up. The party they control has virtually no economic program but tax cuts and deregulation and that suits the donor class just fine. They’re comfortable with the kind of Supreme Court justice who sees no potential for money to corrupt our political system.

Yesterday Bloomberg published a very insightful post mortem on the Rubio campaign that applies here. Sahil Kapur wrote that Rubio ran to the preferences of the GOP’s financial supporters only to find that the party’s electorate is rejecting the elite agenda. As former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum recently remarked, “This has been very much a donor-led party for a long time.”  But Kapur writes, Rubio “underestimated the base’s antipathy toward an agenda party leaders have been committed to for decades—and toward the leaders themselves.”

McConnell doesn’t have to concern himself with the rabble. His big worry is donor maintenance.

Merrick Garland, Mitch McConnell, Barack Obama

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