(photo from LindseyGraham.com)
In the wake of the loss of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, many mourned, but many celebrated. Although Republican congressmen refused to have a hearing for deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement in 2016, they radically altered their stance in 2020, brazenly supporting Trump’s nomination of a new Justice just three months before the election. The hypocrisy of the situation is perfectly exemplified by a certain Republican senator named Lindsay Graham.
After the passing of Antonin Scalia in February of 2016, President Obama waited a month before nominating Merrick Garland in March. However, Republicans claimed that since 2016 was an election year, the next president should nominate the new Justice. The chief proponent of this position, who is still the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was Lindsay Graham. In a letter drafted to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Graham argued that constitutional principles led his fellow Republicans on the Judiciary Committee to conclude that Obama should not be allowed to select the next Supreme Court Justice and instead that the people should be allowed to elect a new president and therefore have more say in the nomination of the next Justice. Additionally, he urged the American people to “hold [his] words against [him]”, promising that he wouldl treat every future situation the exact same way. However, as we know, his stance has changed drastically.
Just four days after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September, President Trump stated he would nominate a Supreme Court Justice to fill her seat, and his party accepted his decision immediately with immense support. Once again, Lindsay Graham led the pack. He insisted that the Republicans should support Trump’s nominee, regardless of who they might be, and promised that “[t]he nominee’s going to be supported by every Republican in the Judiciary Committee.” Such a blunt position directly contradicts the constitutional principle of “advice and consent” that Graham referenced to support blocking the nomination of Garland; it is the duty of the Senate to screen a nominee critically before approving them, which is impossible if the nominee is not even known. In summation, the constitutional principles on whose force Graham defended his 2016 position do not seem to matter much to him now.
In addition, for someone who directly asked to be held accountable for his decision in 2016, Graham’s defense for his recent complete reversal of stance is quite weak. In an official letter sent to Democrats on the Judiciary Committee after Ginsburg’s death, Graham argued that the situation in 2016 was completely different from the current one. For one, he claimed that because it was precedent to never confirm a nominee of the opposing party in an election year, he and his fellow Republicans were just adhering to norms. Also, he explained that the treatment of Judge Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings forced him to have “a different view of the judicial confirmation process,” which is a direct confession that he cares less about its integrity. Finally, he spoke directly to Democrats in saying, “I am certain if the shoe were on the other foot, you would do the same.” However, the shoe is not on the other foot.
Republicans like Lindsay Graham possess immense power regarding the future of the country. Supreme Court Justices are arguably the most influential members of the federal government, as they not only have lifetime appointments but also determine the course of the nation for centuries to come through their rulings. In the wake of such a monumental nomination, Republicans have decided to disregard any conception of morality or precedent and instead support the president no matter what. Lindsay Graham’s hypocrisy epitomizes the downward spiral of the Republican party, which, due to its recent actions, has no end in sight.