Remember when it seemed like the Republican Party had a golden opportunity to take back the White House in 2016? Conservatives had so many seemingly great options to choose from: Marco Rubio! Scott Walker! Jeb! Democrats, meanwhile, had a socialist and Hillary Clinton. And the socialist was easily the more likeable of the two. Republican prospects of controlling the White House and both houses of Congress seemed at least vaguely plausible if not downright likely. Back then, Merrick Garland didn't look so hot. We were holding out for a real conservative.
How times have changed.
The Republican Party nominated an intemperate clown with more hair than brains. Consequently, unless Hillary Clinton shoots someone on Fifth Avenue, she will be president. That makes it all the more important that Republicans listen closely to what Clinton has to say about the Supreme Court during tonight's debate. As you listen, ask yourself: Do I trust Hillary Clinton to nominate someone more qualified than Merrick Garland to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States?
I realize this is not a pleasant thought experiment for my fellow conservatives, especially given the way party leaders postured about voting on Garland during primary season. But even if you agreed with the political logic that drove the decision to ignore Garland — a vacant seat on the Supreme Court undoubtedly highlights the immediate and profound stakes of the presidential election, thereby invigorating the GOP's base (especially values voters) and driving grassroots turnout in November — that logic no longer holds once Trump loses. The change in circumstances mandates a reexamination of our options.
This is especially true because Trump's disastrous campaign could cost the party more than the presidency: Control of Congress now appears to be in play. Were the Democrats to take control of the Senate, Chuck Schumer would surely invoke the nuclear option — and Republicans would have no way of resisting Clinton's nominee.
Clinton appears to be preparing for precisely this possibility. Just last month, she publicly refused to commit to putting President Obama's nominee on the Supreme Court. Instead, she promised to "represent the diversity of our country," and pick someone with "common-sense, real-world experience."
Even by the low standards of politi-speak, Clinton's comments are vapid. But if you dare to take Secretary Clinton at her word, diversity would be at the heart of her nominating philosophy. Judge Garland does not fit Clinton's stated criteria. The "old white male Harvard Law graduate" demographic is already well represented on the court.
But, conservatives might interject, how much worse than Garland could Clinton possibly do? Much worse. Garland is far from perfect, but he is relatively moderate. Indeed, the Obama White House went out of its way to appoint someone moderate enough that it would be politically difficult for Republicans to refuse to hold hearings. President Clinton will not be similarly constrained.
Republican lawmakers will balk at allowing Garland to be confirmed after the election. To do so would reveal them to be two-faced liars, and would subject them to widespread ridicule by both the media and their own constituents. But to govern is to choose, and the Supreme Court is awfully important. So as you watch Wednesday's debate, ask yourself: Do I really trust Hillary Clinton to give conservatives a better Supreme Court option than what Obama has on the table right now?
The answer is surely no.