Even George Will can’t defend John Thune’s refusal to consider the sitting President’s Supreme Court nominee:
The Republican Party’s incoherent response to the Supreme Court vacancy is a partisan reflex in search of a justifying principle. The multiplicity of Republican rationalizations for their refusal to even consider Merrick B. Garland radiates insincerity.
…In their tossed salad of situational ethics, the Republicans’ most contradictory and least conservative self-justification is: The court’s supposedly fragile legitimacy is endangered unless the electorate speaks before a vacancy is filled. The preposterous premise is that the court will be “politicized” unless vacancies are left vacant until a political campaign registers public opinion about, say, “Chevron deference” [George Will, “Do Republicans Really Think Donald Trump Will Make a Good Supreme Court Choice?” Washington Post, 2016.03.18].
Of all of Will’s well-chosen words, “situational ethics” strikes me as the most significant phrase describing the strangeness of contemporary Republican politics. I used to be a George Will Republican because I thought Democrats and liberals were the purveyors of value relativism. But Will hits his Republicans on the head for their own lack of adherence to coherent principles.
We see situational ethics from South Dakota’s Republicans all the time:
- Our Republican legislators passed the Daschle Rule in 2002 to prevent Democratic U.S. Senator Tom Daschle from running for President and keeping his hat in the Senate ring. The Republicans repealed that rule last year in case Republican U.S. Senator John Thune decided to run for President.
- After resisting every proposal Democrats have offered for a more progressive tax system in South Dakota, Republicans who voted against this year’s sales tax for teacher pay based their opposition on complaints that sales tax is regressive.
- Republicans say they want government not to interfere with private schools, private business, and private philanthropy, yet they vote for Senate Bill 159, which unconstitutionally funnels tax dollars to private South Dakota religious schools in the form of corporate welfare to insurance companies as a reward for their supposedly selfless charitable giving.
George Will and I agree: Thune and his Republicans are relativists, saying whatever suits their desire to cling to power. You may not like what we Democrats believe, but at least we believe in something… and you can trust that we’ll still believe those things tomorrow.