I’ll confess: There was a time when I would have considered the question facing Republicans a no-brainer. Of course they should seize this opportunity to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg with a conservative. Moving the courts—especially the Supreme Court—rightward has been a conservative lodestar for generations. It remains one of the last tenets of pre-Trump conservatism that still largely unites the right.
In fairness, the conservatives who take these matters seriously would say the issue isn’t so much moving the courts “rightward” as it is restoring the courts to their proper role. They—we—believe the primary reason these fights have become so ugly is that the judiciary has taken upon itself legislative functions it does not have. (This is why even pro-choice conservatives, and even pro-choice liberals like Ginsburg, believe Roe v. Wade was deeply flawed.) When Supreme Court justices do the job of politicians, it shouldn’t be a surprise that confirmation battles resemble political campaigns.
One of the benefits of this high-stakes moment is that many conservatives have shelved the old arguments about Senate precedents and hypocrisy and stated the matter clearly.
“In reality, there are only two rules, both set forth in the Constitution,” writes National Review’s Andrew McCarthy. “A president, for as long as he or she is president, has the power to nominate a person to fill a Supreme Court seat; and that nominee can fill the seat only with the advice and consent of the Senate. That’s it. Everything else is posturing. Everything else is politics.”