Where Things Stand: GOP Didn’t Yell About Demographic SCOTUS Promises When Their Sweet Prince Reagan Did It

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President Ronald Reagan sitting at desk in the Oval Office of the White House after adressing the nation, re Iran-Contra affair. (Photo by Diana Walker/Getty Images)

Some conservatives weren’t thrilled in the Reagan-era, but not in the overwrought way on display today.

The gist: Republicans don’t seem to have any satisfying path forward for carrying out their typical obstruction of a Democratic president’s SCOTUS nominee. So they’re tossing their outrage into a tired bucket: Whoever President Biden chooses as his pick to replace retiring-Justice Stephen Breyer will be a Radical Left Activist! The only discernible reason for this assumption is weird and racist: Biden today reaffirmed his campaign vow to appoint the first Black woman to the Supreme Court during his presidency, if the opportunity arose. It has.

And in a 50-50 Senate, Republicans are aware there’s not much they can do to Merrick Garland their way out of handing Biden a Supreme Court appointment win — Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) admitted as much mere hours after Breyer’s retirement news broke yesterday. And so, instead, they’re getting a head start on the party’s 2022 messaging, vowing that Democrats will PAY in the Midterms … for doing exactly what Trump did three times during his presidency (i.e., part of his job).

Trump laid the groundwork for the outrage talking point on Wednesday, putting out a statement attempting to fundraise off the supposed inevitable: that Biden will appoint some communist judge to the Supreme Court. The right-wing media circuit followed suit. The Wall Street Journal published a think piece on the ordeal, attempting to sophisticate the argument with an op-ed from George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley insisting the push for diversity was at odds with “a criterion that the court itself has found unconstitutional for public educational institutions and unlawful for businesses.” Fox News host Tucker Carlson took a less intellectual approach, yelling on his show Wednesday night that Biden is forgetting the important “law stuff” in order to traffic in identity politics. The RNC put out a statement.

The straw-grasping outrage then festered into Republican leadership legitimacy by Thursday afternoon when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave President Biden a condescending reminder that it’s his job to “govern from the middle, steward our institutions, and unite America.”

“The President must not outsource this important decision to the radical left,” he declared. “The American people deserve a nominee with demonstrated reverence for the written text of our laws and our Constitution.”

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No doubt, we will see more of this — never mind the fact that Biden has not named any names nor said one single thing about his potential nominee beyond the fact that she will be Black and she will be a woman.

To be sure, pointing out Republican hypocrisy is boring at this point. But the New York Times published this helpful reminder today that is worth looking at. While running against President Jimmy Carter in 1980 hoping to attract support from women voters, then-Republican candidate Ronald Reagan vowed he would appoint the first woman to the Supreme Court if elected. He ultimately followed through, appointing former-Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to the high Court.

But at the time, Republicans didn’t bat an eye at his preemptive demographic promise. It was only after O’Connor was named that he received some mild (by today’s standards) criticism for the nomination. Not because of her gender, but because there were concerns she might uphold Roe v. Wade (which, maybe a bit sexist anyways). She ultimately did.

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