Over the weekend Palmer Report pointed out that, based on Mitt Romney’s usual pattern of doing things, he was likely willing to be the fourth and deciding vote against proceeding with the Supreme Court nomination process – but he was unwilling to be the third vote if there was no fourth vote.
After people like Cory Gardner and Chuck Grassley announced last night that they supported moving forward with the nomination process, Mitt Romney announced today that he supported it as well. This was predictable. After all, there is no fourth vote at this time, and this wasn’t something that Romney wanted to get stuck on the losing side of – particularly when he could keep his powder dry.
Romney is getting roundly shellacked today, and he more than deserves it. He’s the kind of corrupt creep who only occasionally does the right thing, and then only when it happens to benefit him, and even then he expects to be showered with praise for it. But most people are attacking him today for being a coward or not having a spine, and that’s simply not what’s going on here.
There’s a way that politics works. More specifically, there’s a way that Republican politics works. It has nothing to do with whether you can trust them to do the right thing, or whether they have a spine or a conscience. It’s never, ever about those things, because none of those concepts even exist in Republican politics. Instead, there is precisely one governing principle for how Republicans in office vote: how they each selfishly think that vote will impact their careers.
Plenty of observers mistakenly equate this with automatically voting in corrupt fashion every time. But it’s not the same thing at all. When a Republican Senator thinks their career is most benefited by doing the wrong thing, they’ll do it. But in a specific instance where a Republican Senator thinks their career is most benefited by doing what just coincidentally happens to be the right thing, that’s what they’ll do.
We saw it when Mitt Romney voted to convict Donald Trump. Romney did this because he knew that once Trump lost the election, Romney’s vote would be widely looked back upon as having been the right thing to do, and Romney would get credit for it. We also saw it when Murkowski and Collins voted to save Obamacare, simply because they thought it was best for their own career prospects.
We even saw it when John McCain voted to proceed with the vote to kill Obamacare, before ultimately voting to save Obamacare. Those two votes made no sense within the context of each other. But it didn’t matter. If McCain was going to save Obamacare, he wanted to do it on the biggest stage possible, so he made sure the whole thing went to a televised high stakes vote before stepping in at the last minute with his thumbs down. He wanted as much credit as possible for it, and hey, he was doing the right thing anyway, so more power to him. But that’s how politics works.
Mitt Romney is surely going into this confirmation process with a keen eye on which way the wind ends up blowing. If the hearings are ugly and it’s clear that the vast majority of Americans want the nomination to fail, and if Romney can convince a twit like Gardner to get on board, don’t be surprised if Romney then decides to take credit for killing the nomination. After all, Romney wants to run for President in 2024, and he’ll do whatever he thinks puts him in the best position to pull off that goal – whether it happens to be the right thing or wrong thing at any given moment.
Mitt Romney is exactly who we’ve known him to be, dating all the way back to his dishonest and tone-deaf 2012 presidential run. He’ll flip flop on anything, depending on which way he thinks public sentiment is leaning, and what he thinks will help his career the most. These kinds of flip flopping panderers never become President, but don’t tell Romney that; let him find out the hard way in 2024.
The events of today don’t mean that we’ve lost the Supreme Court nomination battle. Not at all. That battle is just getting started. The likes of Romney, Gardner, Collins, and Murkowski have merely taken their initial postures before the game begins. You can’t trust any of them to do the right thing or the wrong thing, because they don’t think in those terms; they’re each trying to figure out the most personally advantageous thing. Our job is to keep leaning on these turds and convince them that if they don’t vote our way, we’ll make sure their career ambitions don’t play out the way they’re hoping.
Keep in mind that Susan Collins is badly losing her reelection bid, specifically because she voted to confirm Trump’s last toxically unpopular nominee. Now she’s panicking and trying to figure out whether to go the other way this time around, in a last ditch attempt at saving herself. Gardner is also losing his reelection bid, meaning he’s prone to panic moves. Murkowski seems to gain points in her state of Alaska any time she goes against Trump. And Romney cares far more about setting himself up for 2024 than he does about what’s best for Trump or McConnell.
The bottom line is this. These folks are each going to end up voting in transactional fashion. They’ll do the math about what they think is best for them, and they’ll vote accordingly. Your job is to convince each of them that the best transaction for their own career prospects is to vote against this confirmation. It’s the only thing they care about, and the only thing they’ll listen to. That means it’s the one thing we can use to influence their actions. If we act strategically, instead of just emotionally, we can win this.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report