Stick With The Picks

February 9, 2017 | George Nethercutt for the Inlander

This article first appeared here on the Inlander.

Even though national politics are a full-contact sport, rules of good sportsmanship must still apply.


When President Trump announced Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the Supreme Court vacancy, he justified for many who either reluctantly supported or didn’t vote for him that he was, in fact, the better choice for president. Judge Gorsuch is a superb choice for the highest court in our nation. Senate Democrats should accept the Gorsuch pick rather than be political poor sports. A poor sport is commonly defined as “someone unnecessarily emotional after being defeated in a contest, thereby exhibiting unacceptable behavior.” Senate Democrats’ intended obstruction of President Trump’s nominee just because he’s a Trump pick is unfounded and threatens to cause an uprising against such obstruction.

Politics involves choices. Presidential choices frame public opinion. Trump chose improperly when he secretly announced his policy for vetting refugees. He’s paid a price for making the announcement alone, without proper “cover” of Cabinet officials, members of Congress and a more fulsome explanation of his policy pronouncement. Springing the announcement on Americans resulted in massive protests and public outcry. Next time, Trump should be more politically careful, realizing that any announcement he makes will likely draw criticism from those who yearned for a Hillary Clinton presidency. National politics is a contact sport.

But the Gorsuch nomination, by all accounts, is a good one. While conservative in his outlook, Judge Gorsuch is a reasonable scholar with impeccable credentials. The two justices nominated by President Obama were scholarly, but were more liberal in their outlook, and were largely unopposed by Republicans. Traditionally, presidents are able to choose nominees to fill Supreme Court vacancies, and Trump’s choice justified his election to many.

When Senate Democrats, representing the loyal minority opposition, raise false or manufactured criticisms of Judge Gorsuch, they’re acting like poor sports, frustrated that Trump won the election. Those Democratic senators opposing Gorsuch may pay a public price in the 2018 elections, especially senators who represent states that Trump won in 2016. Judge Gorsuch should receive 100 Senate votes for confirmation. Democratic senators should raise their support for a like-minded candidate to replace one of the older liberal justices on the Court upon retirement and hold their fire on Judge Gorsuch. Doing otherwise, or objecting to his nomination on purely political grounds, is a fool’s errand. Democrats lack the votes to stop his nomination anyway.

President Trump is also entitled to have as Cabinet members those he chooses, unless they’re obviously unqualified. He’s the president and is entitled to his own team. So far, Democrats have raised specious arguments against the Trump nominees, with the possible exception of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, Republican senators in opposition, object less on substance and more on politics, as both senators have received pressure from teachers unions that oppose DeVos, or perhaps also because both senators want to show their independence on at least one Trump nominee. Alaska supported Trump, but Maine supported Clinton.

That doesn’t mean, however, that DeVos failed the confirmation test. The margin with Republican votes was narrower without Collins and Murkowski. But in the end, 50 Republican senators voted for DeVos’ confirmation, and Vice President Mike Pence broke the tie, as allowed under Article 1, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.” Presidents should be able to have their Cabinet selections confirmed, and accordingly be held accountable for such choices.

The same is true for any political choice a president makes. In the case of President Trump, his opponents have every right to criticize actions with which they disagree philosophically. The choices he’ll make as president subject him to such criticism. But elected officials raise their right hand and swear on their oath of office to “preserve and protect the Constitution” and have an implied duty to conform their actions to what’s best for the United States.

The Cabinet choices and Trump’s choice of Judge Gorsuch are good for America and represent fights the Democrats should avoid. Senate Democrats should swallow hard and withdraw their objections to current Cabinet choices and Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, and fight their philosophical fight another day, when it might mean something. After all, Trump won the electoral vote and therefore the presidency, and objections by Democrats won’t change the outcome.

Poor sportsmanship in politics is as bad as poor sportsmanship in any other field of endeavor. It causes public heads to shake in disgust.

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