Joe Biden can kiss future Supreme Court nominations goodbye if Republicans win the Senate

Joe Biden can kiss future Supreme Court nominations goodbye if Republicans win the Senate
Image via Gage Skidmore.

Have you heard there’s a US Senate race in North Carolina?

For reals. No joke.

It’s actually happening, even if you probably couldn’t name the two candidates competing for the seat if you were waterboarded or hypnotized – or both.

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At first glance, it’s easy to guess why this race isn’t getting much attention.

It doesn’t feature a scammy TV doctor from New Jersey with an apparent side hustle in the puppy torture industry.

There isn't an ex-NFL player with a fake police badge now best known for paying for abortions and threatening to kill the mother of his son and his son, according to said son.

Still, Democrats still may regret watching this seat slip away for years, if not decades.

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The race to replace retiring inside-trader Republican Richard Burr isn’t just the Democrats’ best chance this decade to pick up a Senate seat in purplish North Carolina, where Joe Biden lost by only 1.34 percent of the vote. It’s one of the closest Senate races in an election year filled with coin-toss Senate races.

Democrat Cheri Beasely, a former chief justice of North Carolina’s Supreme Court, trails Republican Ted Budd, a member of the Congress and Trump fanboy, by about 3 points, according to 538’s poll averages. Even less than that in other reputable polls.

That puts it well within the margin of error of most polls and what would normally be considered an amazing pickup opportunity for Democrats desperately in need of pickup opportunities.

Yet you’ve surely heard far more about Senate races in Wisconsin, Arizona and Florida, where the polls aren’t as tight.

There are many reasons why the Senate race in North Carolina is getting less attention than nearly mathematically impossible attempts to oust rabid Karens who are Lauren Boebert or Marjorie Taylor Greene.

And none of them are particularly great.

First of all, the Republican candidate doesn’t want anyone to pay attention to this race.

Budd is running a “stealth” campaign, according to Michael Bitzer, a professor of politics and history at Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.

“When you’re doing a stealth campaign, relying on the fundamentals, and letting your TV ads be your main conduit, you can fly below the radar and be restrained enough not to say anything out of the mainstream that will call attention to you,” Bitzer told the New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner.

And apparently Budd’s strategy is working, as evidenced by the almost lack of national focus on the race.

The word “fundamentals” points to why Beasley, the Democratic candidate, may also be eager to keep the race off of MSNBC or Fox.

No Democrat has won a US Senate race in North Carolina since 2008, when Obama’s massive landslide swept in the state and, somehow, Indiana, like some sort of 1,000-year flood.

So Beasley, who would be the first Black woman North Carolina has ever sent to the US Senate, has to “thread a very small needle to have a shot,” according to Bitzer, which requires mirroring the “centrist” approach of two-term Democratic governor Roy Cooper.

And the word “fundamentals” also means that the president's party hasn’t had a good midterm election since 2002, when the entire nation was still suffering a cortisol surge from Sept. 11.

One real exception to this rule was when Republicans picked up two Senate seats in 2018, despite losing their House majority.

What was different in 2018?

Republicans had a very good Senate map that year, but Democrats had excellent recruits in Missouri and Tennessee. What many people think made the difference for the GOP was Brett Kavanaugh who was confirmed to the Supreme Court despite (or because of) a credible accusation of sexual assault.

Republicans rallied around the conservative goal of dominating the courts and, as a result, they were able to overturn Roe at the first opportunity.

Which leads us to why 2022 could be different, and why Democrats should be doing everything they can to help Beasley and win this seat.

Most Americans want Roe back.

Most North Carolinians want Roe back.

But here’s something every Democrat and every honest observer of politics must understand quickly, or eight years ago when Democrats lost the Senate and doomed the nation to rule by a stolen Republican Supreme Court majority: A Republican Senate will never confirm a Democratic president’s pick for the Supreme Court.

Never. Ever. It’s over.

In fact, it’s been over since 1895. That’s the last time a Republican-controlled Senate confirmed an appointee from a Democratic president.

If Democrats don’t hold the Senate in 2022, Joe Biden will not get to put anyone else on the Supreme Court. He probably also won’t be able to fill any cabinet vacancies or openings that may occur on the National Labor Relations Board or any other parts of the government that operate via presidential appointment.

And if Democrats don’t hold the Senate in 2022, the chances of them retaking it for the rest of this decade and beyond are beyond dim. And that means that Democrats may be able to win the presidency if the Supreme Court doesn’t allow Republicans to rig the electoral college, but Democratic presidents will not be allowed to act as presidents by a GOP Senate.

The only way to avoid this constitutional perversion is to somehow hold the Senate and expand the majority by doing everything possible to win a state like North Carolina when there’s any chance of winning in North Carolina.

We’re past the point when money will make too much of a difference, but there are still calls to be made and doors to be knocked.

But most of all, we need to recognize that our only hope of overcoming a Republican majority on the Supreme Court almost entirely appointed by GOP presidents who lost the popular vote at least once is to hold the Senate.

And if we took this realization seriously, no Democrat would be ignoring the North Carolina Senate seat.

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