Press: Democrats must hang tough on high court pick

Press: Democrats must hang tough on high court pick
© Getty

A dangerous myth has infiltrated American politics. We hear it whenever the issue of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House counsel called Trump 'King Kong' behind his back: report Trump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Trump claims he instructed White House counsel to cooperate with Mueller MORE’s latest appointment to the Supreme Court is raised.

It goes like this: Senate Democrats up for reelection from red states this year have no choice. They MUST vote for Donald Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court, or else they will lose their bid for reelection. Whether or not they continue to serve in the Senate all depends on how they vote on the court.

Nonsense! There is no political data — none! — to support that premise, which was probably cooked up by some Republican consultant to scare the hell out of Democrats. I defy anyone to come up with one example of a senator who’s lost his or her seat because of how they voted on a Supreme Court nominee. The argument they’d automatically do so is pure bunk.

But, so far, it seems to be working. No sooner had Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement from the bench than many Democrats simply threw in the towel, saying there was no way they could stop Trump. Why? Because at least five Democrats running in red states — West Virginia’s Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Health Care: Senate takes up massive HHS spending bill next week | Companies see no sign of drugmakers cutting prices, despite Trump claims | Manchin hits opponent on ObamaCare lawsuit Manchin hits opponent on ObamaCare lawsuit with new ad The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) MORE, Indiana’s Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Schumer to meet with Kavanaugh on Tuesday Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fights in states MORE, Missouri’s Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Schumer to meet with Kavanaugh on Tuesday GOP leader criticizes Republican senators for not showing up to work MORE, Montana’s Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterSenate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Pearl Jam criticized for poster featuring dead Trump, burning White House Montana GOP Senate hopeful touts Trump's support in new ad MORE and North Dakota’s Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court nomination reignites abortion fight in states | Trump urges Sessions to sue opioid makers | FDA approves first generic version of EpiPen Judge rules against Trump attempt to delay Obama water rule MORE — have no choice but to vote for Trump’s nominee.

Again, wrong, wrong, wrong. Consider the math. It’s an uphill battle, to be sure, but by no means impossible for Democrats to block Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. The current Senate line-up is 51 Republicans and, in effect, 49 Democrats (counting Independent Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBoogeywomen — GOP vilifies big-name female Dems RealClearPolitics editor: Moderate Democrats are losing even when they win Sanders tests his brand in Florida MORE (Vt.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingOvernight Energy: Judge revives clean water rule | Keystone XL pipeline to get new environmental review | Nominee won't say if he backs funding agency Trump nominee won't say if he supports funding agency he was selected to run Trump draws bipartisan fire over Brennan MORE (Maine)). But, with Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Hill's 12:30 Report Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Rand Paul’s Russia visit displays advancement of peace through diplomacy MORE (R-Ariz.) battling brain cancer and unlikely to return, that makes it 50-49. Which means Democrats need to pick up only ONE Republican vote — most likely Sens. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsWhite House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding The Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Overnight Defense: Pompeo creates 'action group' for Iran policy | Trump escalates intel feud | Report pegs military parade cost at M MORE (Maine), Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThe Hill's Morning Report: Dems have a majority in the Senate (this week) Senate gets to work in August — but many don’t show up Trump nominee won't say if he supports funding agency he was selected to run MORE (Alaska), Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSen. Warner to introduce amendment limiting Trump’s ability to revoke security clearances White House weighs clawing back State, foreign aid funding Rand Paul to ask Trump to lift sanctions on Russian leaders MORE (Tenn.) or Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump stays out of Arizona's ugly and costly GOP fight Voters will punish Congress for ignoring duty on war and peace GOP Senate candidate truncates Trump tweet in campaign mailer MORE (Ariz.) — to win the day. But only if all 49 Democrats hang tough.

Can Manchin, Donnelly, Heitkamp, Tester and McCaskill vote “no” and still survive? Absolutely. Here’s how. First, don’t apologize or make excuses for voting against Trump on such an important issue. Instead, brag about it. Make it a positive part of the campaign. Remind voters: You did not elect me to be a rubber-stamp for any president, Republican or Democrat. You elected me to do what’s best for the people of our state. And that’s what I’m doing.

Second, tell people what’s at stake. This is not just some popularity contest for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee. This is about life and death issues which will have a profound impact on every American. As The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin notes, if anybody on Trump’s list of 25 potential nominees is confirmed, the newly constituted court could be expected to overrule Roe v. Wade and allow states to prosecute any physicians and nurses who perform abortions; allow shopkeepers or restaurants to refuse service to LGBTQ Americans; enable universities to accept fewer African-American and Latino students; approve laws designed to make it more difficult to vote; expand exercise of the death penalty; and prohibit states from adopting any sensible form of gun control, even the banning of bump stocks.

Surely, it’s not so difficult for red-state Democrats to make the argument that protecting fundamental constitutional rights of all Americans is more important than an automatic show of loyalty to any president. The only thing preventing Democrats from blocking Trump’s Supreme Court nominee is not the math. It’s the backbone to prevent the court from moving backward.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”