I promised myself that I wouldn’t make predictions in 2020. I would write about what I wanted to happen, or what I feared could happen, but I would not play the game of definitively saying what would happen, both in order to avoid common pundit fallacies and (more importantly) to avoid looking stupid.
I broke that promise pretty definitively last Friday night, when I predicted that President Donald Trump would nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, and that U.S. Senate would confirm her after the November election. There is still plenty of time for me to be proven wrong, and I very much hope to be.
But I still think my on-the-spot vision of the immediate post-Ginsburg future is more plausible than that of, to take just one example, Missouri’s former senator Claire McCaskill. “Everyone take a deep breath,” she wrote last Friday evening. “McConnell wants power. Period. Forcing this vote before Nov 3 guarantees he loses the Senate. Forcing this vote lame duck probably loses them more seats in 2022. (Portman,Toomey,Rubio,Iowa, etc).”
McCaskill believed, in other words, that fear of an electoral backlash would cause Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hit the brakes on a potential Ginsburg replacement, in order to protect senators representing states where energized and outraged Democrats could turn out in droves to defeat Trump. And McCaskill and I largely agree about the political implications of “forcing this vote” before November 3. Maine’s Susan Collins, for example has signaled her preference to wait for the election before holding a vote, but voters now reminded of her complicity in the rest of the GOP’s judiciary shenanigans could still turn her out.
That is exactly why I predicted a lame duck confirmation. It’s simply very difficult to imagine these Republican senators, with this leader, trading a thing they very much want—a period of complete dominance over the Supreme Court that could last decades—for the possibility of keeping a few Senate seats a few years from now.