GOP should lead by example, vote on Supreme Court

(Katie Tamosiunas / The DePaulia)
(Katie Tamosiunas / The DePaulia)

“Lead by example” is a clichéd phrase that gets tossed around in fields far and wide. Chicago Bulls fans may recall last week when team vice president John Paxson called out star guard Jimmy Butler for talking about leadership, but not engaging in it.

“Here’s how I feel about the whole leadership thing,” Paxson said. “When you’re talking too much about leadership you’re probably not getting what you need from the team leaders. And I always thought and I played with the greatest player (Michael Jordan) in the game and you didn’t hear him talking about leadership. You heard him going out and showing leadership and showing that he was a winning player. I don’t think any of our guys need to talk about that anymore, about leadership, I think they need to show it.”

But this is not an article about the Jimmy Butler or the Bulls, though their well-documented drama is worth a full story. No —this is about Republicans, Donald Trump and the Supreme Court.

Members of the so-called GOP establishment, bewildered by the prospect of Trump hijacking their party, and possibly destroying it should look in the mirror and do some soul-searching.

After all, Trump didn’t happen in a vacuum. His rise comes after more than seven years of uncompromising opposition from congressional Republicans to President Barack Obama and his policies. It was now-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who said in 2009 that his top goal was ensuring that Obama was a one-term president.

Fast forward to 2016, we have Trump running a campaign based on the fears and tactics peddled by the GOP for years. His laundry list of proposals include building a wall along the southern border, deporting undocumented immigrants, banning all Muslims and renegotiating trade agreements.

Now, the majority of establishment Republicans are not nativists who associate with racists and exhibit explicit sexism. However, the GOP has created an environment where a candidate taking such positions is okay.

Take the fight over the Supreme Court: Republicans have refused to even hold hearings on Merrick Garland, the president’s nominee to the nation’s highest court. The reason? They want to roll the dice on a Republican winning the presidency in November. They justify this by arguing the American people should have a say on the future of the court.

Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., right, meets with Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Kirk is the only Republican to support taking a vote on Garland. (J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / AP)
Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., right, meets with Judge Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s choice to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court. Kirk is the only Republican to support taking a vote on Garland. (J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE / AP)

A problem with this argument, however, is the American people have already had a say when they reelected Obama to a second four-year term in 2012 — not a three-year term Republicans would like Americans to believe.

For the Senate to abdicate its constructional responsibility to provide advice and consent to the president on his nominee simply because it’s an election year is both unprecedented and dangerous. Yet, it fits right into their playbook of undercut and delegitimize the president at every possible turn.

From voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act countless times to not strenuously disavowing birtherism, the Republicans have mastered the art of opposition at all costs, even basic decency. With regard to Garland, he is probably the least controversial nominee in recent times; a moderate held in high regard by members of both parties, an upstanding citizen in the community and the man who led the investigation following the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

If this were based solely on the merits, Garland would be easily confirmed. But merits and qualifications can sometimes fall on deaf ears in the political arena. And in order to avoid an embarrassing down vote on Garland ­— because there’s no legitimate reason to deny him confirmation — Republicans avoid even holding hearings.

In a way, one wonders why Republicans wouldn’t be proud of Trump for his campaign. They gave him the playbook, after all; he’s just leading by example.

Leaders must act responsibly in order to run a country. Most people, including Obama’s opponents, will say the president has been a decent man with a steady hand. Trump would be an unmitigated disaster for the country should he be elected, but would a Republican like John Kasich or Ted Cruz be any better?

In order for Republicans to win the White House back, they must prove they possess the ability to govern. Competence matters. And their refusal to consider the impeccably qualified Garland for political reasons does not help in this regard.

Leadership is important and something both establishment Republicans and Donald Trump talk a lot about. But, like Jimmy Butler, perhaps there should be less talking and more doing. Set an example people want to follow. That begins with allowing for an up-or-down vote on Garland.