Should Democrats Go to the Mattresses Over the Supreme Court?

Evan Golub via ZUMA

I’m in a quandary. Last night I suggested that Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the Supreme Court would energize progressives and produce a huge turnout in the November midterms. My thinking behind this was:

  • On the conservative side, the replacement would already be in place by Election Day, so it wouldn’t have any special effect on Republican turnout.
  • On the progressive side, Kennedy’s replacement would put Roe v. Wade in such obvious danger that Democrats would flock to the polls.

Obviously I could be wrong about either of these things, but put that aside for now. It turns out that the controversy of the moment among progressives is whether Democrats should put up a titanic fight to prevent a replacement from being confirmed. My assumption had been that Dems would fight, but mostly pro forma since they have no feasible way of stopping Republicans. They could try to persuade a couple of centrist Republicans to vote against anyone who might overturn Roe, but that’s pretty unlikely—and the other ideas I’ve heard go downhill from there. Republicans are going to win this fight, and the Democratic leadership knows it.

Like I said, that was my assumption behind all this. But what if Democrats do go to the mattresses? Block the doorways, disrupt quorum calls, put gum in all the locks and sugar in the gas tanks. Whatever. If that’s the case, then it becomes an all-out war and conservatives will be at least as energized as progressives. Maybe more so. That means a pro forma fight is probably the best bet.

On the other hand, the midterms are all about the Resistance. They’re all about the fight, showing a spine, and turning out the base. Wouldn’t a pro forma fight deflate all that? If Dems don’t blow up a few things, the base might get disgusted and just stay home. That means we need to declare war.

This alternative hadn’t really occurred to me. Rationally, a pro forma fight is almost certainly the best bet. But politics isn’t about rationality. It’s about inspiring your own side and deflating the other side. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a single strategy which accomplishes that here. Any ideas?