Juan Williams: McConnell's Supreme Court hypocrisy

In the age of Trump, I remain an optimist.

It’s easy to get depressed if you get locked into dark thoughts about how a third of the country is not concerned about the chaos, bullying and lies coming from the Trump White House.

But optimism rises in me whenever I focus on the reality that for all the political madness, most Americans still go to work, go to school and take care of their families.

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We are not a broken country.

Then last week came a depressing tweet from President Obama’s former top political adviser, David AxelrodDavid AxelrodKrystal Ball: Patrick's 2020 bid is particularly 'troublesome' for Warren David Axelrod: Bloomberg entry 'not exactly a vote of confidence' in Biden Trump thanks Reid for warning Democrats not to underestimate him MORE.

Axelrod warned that if a vacancy on the Supreme Court arose next year and if the door is opened to filling it by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy On The Money: Trump asks Supreme Court to block Dem subpoena for financial records | Kudlow 'very optimistic' for new NAFTA deal | House passes Ex-Im Bank bill opposed by Trump, McConnell Top House Democrats ask for review of DHS appointments MORE (R-Ky.) — despite McConnell having previously blocked Obama nominee Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandAppeals court clears way for Congress to seek Trump financial records Divisive docket to test Supreme Court ahead of 2020 Majority disapprove of Trump Supreme Court nominations, says poll MORE in comparable circumstances — “it will tear this country apart.”

Axelrod’s prediction was prompted by news that 86-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader GinsburgRuth Bader GinsburgGinsburg returns to Supreme Court after stomach bug Ginsburg misses Supreme Court arguments due to illness Justices appear divided over expanding police officers' traffic stop power MORE recently had treatment for a pancreatic tumor. She is one of four justices who make up the liberal minority on the court.

Justice Stephen BreyerStephen BreyerDivided Supreme Court leans toward allowing Trump to end DACA Justices wrestle with reach of Clean Water Act Justices appear divided over expanding police officers' traffic stop power MORE, another member of the liberal minority, is at an age — 81 — when he might consider retirement.

Trump has already filled two Supreme Court seats with hard-line conservatives.

One of those two seats was a vacancy that McConnell preserved by stopping Garland, a moderate jurist respected by both Democrats and Republicans, from being confirmed.

Now if Trump puts another hard-right conservative on the court he will demolish any semblance of political balance by creating a 6-3 conservative majority. And a possible Breyer retirement brings into play a dreadful prospect for Democrats — a 7-2 conservative majority.

Axelrod’s depressing political forecast is rooted in the bald hypocrisy being practiced by McConnell.

Remember McConnell prevented Obama from putting a justice on the high court with nearly a year to go before the next election.

But now, McConnell contends, Trump can put a nominee on the court with a year to go before the next election because the same party, the GOP, controls the Senate and the White House.

This is a remarkable, self-serving double standard. It shows a blatant lack of fair play, certain to ignite bitter political division. With a 53-47 majority in the Senate, the Republicans’ only concern is losing the vote of one of their own — say, Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families Senate confirms controversial circuit court nominee Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE of Maine. With no filibuster, the GOP does not need any votes from Democrats.

McConnell’s goal is to secure his political legacy as the man who cemented a conservative majority on the high court to counter the liberal ideas emerging from the rising number of younger, more racially diverse and more progressive voters in the country.

He will also go down in history as the man who drained all trust from the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a nation of laws beyond the tyranny of any one political ideology or party.

It does not take a fortuneteller to predict that another conservative on the court will stir up rage.

“Senator McConnell is a hypocrite,” Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Schumer blocks drug pricing measure during Senate fight, seeking larger action MORE (D-N.Y.) tweeted back in May.

He added, "Seriously it’s no surprise. @SenateMajLdr McConnell lives for GOP judges because he knows the GOP agenda is so radical & unpopular they can only achieve it in courts. Anyone who believes he’d ever allow confirmation of a Dem President's nominee for SCOTUS is fooling themselves."

In an unprecedented move, five Democratic senators filed an amicus brief last month urging the court to drop its review of a landmark gun control case because of the National Rifle Association’s work to inflame public opinion and bias the court.

“The Supreme Court is not well,” the senators wrote. “And the people know it. Perhaps the Court can heal itself before the public demands it be restructured in order to reduce the influence of politics.”

Meanwhile, South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegNew poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa Growing 2020 field underscores Democratic divide Deval Patrick: a short runway, but potential to get airborne MORE (D), who is running for president, has proposed increasing the number of Supreme Court justices from 9 to 15.

He told NBC News he is open to “whatever Supreme Court reform will depoliticize this body” and change the perception that the court is “an almost nakedly political institution.”

That idea would require changing the constitution.

But if the country is up in arms at the sight of an unbalanced court, then changing the number of justices will get consideration.

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A Pew Research Center survey published in August found that while 75 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents have a favorable view of the Supreme Court, only 49 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents have a favorable view.

Pew notes, “The 26 percentage point difference between the two parties is among the widest it has been over the past two decades.”

A Quinnipiac University poll in late April indicated 81 percent of registered voters nationwide agree that the process for confirming justices is “too political.”

David Wasserman of The Cook Political Report reported last August that the 52 Republican senators who began the 115th Congress — the session preceding the current one — were elected by only 18 percent of the U.S. population.

That figure hardly changed massively in last year’s midterms, after which the Republicans returned with 53 seats.

One way or another, a majority of the American people are being denied any voice in selecting the justices to sit on the Supreme Court as a result of McConnell’s unscrupulous tactics.

We are rapidly approaching the breaking point predicted by Axelrod.

If that dark moment is to come, history will record that it was McConnell — not Trump — who broke apart the country.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.