There were more than a few storylines to track after one of the most intransigent liberals in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, Stephen Breyer, announced he would be stepping down at the end of this term.
First, the timing of the announcement seemed suspect. Justices have historically waited much later in the term to declare such an intent (Kennedy, Souter, O'Connor). That early timing led to widespread speculation that Breyer likely gave the White House the courtesy of a wary heads-up to avoid them being taken off guard and allow them to give a full and proper vetting of potential replacements. The Biden administration then, in a desperate effort to slow cratering polling numbers, leaked the news to give the leftist base some excitement heading into the midterm election year. Breyer's apparent frustration with the manner in which the news broke lends credibility to that interpretation of events.
Speaking of midterm elections, the abrupt announcement seems to speak volumes about the confidence progressives have in their ability to maintain control of the U.S. Senate. If Breyer was "nudged" towards retirement, it's not difficult to understand why, even if it seems a bit macabre. The Left simply didn't trust the 83-year-old Breyer to be able to stay alive long enough to wait out at least two years of Republican control of the Senate. And though 2024 is still a political lifetime away, there's no guarantee that one of the least popular presidents in American history – battling stifling inflation, a border crisis, a budding foreign crisis in both Ukraine and Taiwan, and pandemic fatigue – is going to be able to get himself re-elected in 2 years.
There was also the obnoxiously pandering pronouncement from the White House that President Biden would commit to nominating a black woman to fill the post. No one disputes that there exists a significant pool of qualified, exemplary jurists who are not black or female. In a country that regards sex and race discrimination in the workplace as immoral and illegal, it's a bit unsettling to see the highest profile CEO in the country admit he will be happily engaging in it to make his next hire.
Now, to be fair, Biden's predecessor publicly stated his intent to fill the vacated seat of RBG with another woman. But regardless of the bipartisan nature of the offense, it seems more than a little bizarre to fill court appointments utilizing the very tactics that very court has ruled unconstitutional.
But all those various storylines took a backseat in my estimation to the observation proffered by former Obama administration guru, David Axelrod.
There's lacking self-awareness, and then there's this guy.
Axelrod was the mastermind behind so much of the bitter partisanship that has now become commonplace in the American political landscape. That's not to say that the community-agitating approach to leadership exhibited by former President Obama was the brainchild of Axelrod himself. Obama had cut his political teeth exercising the Saul Alinsky method long before the Ax-man ever entered the picture. But Axelrod willfully allowed his own name to become synonymous with Obama-style governing: partisanship, bitterness, demonizing, and identifying enemy citizen groups and vilifying them for political gain.
More than a few people will point their finger at Donald Trump as the origin of our national discord, conveniently forgetting that Trump was the unintended byproduct of the Left's Obama experiment. He was the anti-Obama – more caustic in tone, less polished in demeanor, but a carbon-copy in his contempt for the opposition.
Meanwhile, it is unlikely that Axelrod or any Democrat wants to open up discussion about where the "sad nature of our times" commenced relative to judicial appointments – not when a simply survey of the last 10 Supreme Court confirmation votes reveals precisely which party has been trafficking in the cheap tactics of character assassination and obstruction. Of the last 10 confirmed justices, 6 have been Republican appointees and 4 have been Democrat choices. Only 1 of the 6 Republicans have garnered more than 58 votes. All of the Democrats (4 out of 4) have received 63 votes or higher.
Put another way, setting aside Chief Justice Roberts, the average margin of approval for Republican appointees has been 7 votes. The average margin of approval for Democrat appointees has been 59 votes. Looking at legal credentials and judicial resumé, that disparity is not the result of Democrat appointees being more qualified or experienced. The precise opposite is true, in fact.
No, the reason for the disparity is that the Democrat Party, since the days of Senator Ted Kennedy and, ironically enough then-Senator Joe Biden, has relentlessly spearheaded some of the most vile, offensive, presumptuous, speculative, and racially-tinged character assassination attempts on conservative judicial appointments. It's been grotesque, without precedent, and exceedingly poisonous to the process that David Axelrod now pretends to lament.
I don't blame him for being upset. The whole thing is undeniably uncivilized and undignified. It's also undeniably a creation of David's chosen team.