Dana Milbank: Eight years ago, when Congress was about to pass Obamacare, John A.Boehner, leader of a powerless Republican congressional minority, gave a passionate, prescient speech on the House floor.
“This is the People’s House, and the moment a majority forgets this, it starts writing itself a ticket to minority status,” he said. “If we pass this bill, there will be no turning back. It will be the last straw for the American people. . . . And in a democracy, you can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.”
This was Boehner’s famous “hell no, you can’t” speech. But the Democrats could. They had the votes, and they passed Obamacare. Boehner was correct in his prediction, though. The Democrats were soon on their way to minority status in the House and would later lose the Senate and the presidency.
Now I think I know how Boehner felt in 2010. We see Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) vowing to ram through the Senate the confirmation of the decisive fifth hard-right justice on the Supreme Court, quite likely signaling the end of legal abortion in much of the United States and possibly same-sex marriage and other rights Americans embrace, in far greater number, than they ever did Obamacare.
One wants to cry out: Hell no, you can’t! But Republicans can. They have the votes. Democrats can and should fight, but the GOP controls the schedule, sets the rules and already eliminated the procedures that gave the minority a say in Supreme Court confirmations.
If anything, the fury should be far more intense on the Democratic side right now than it was for Boehner in 2010. The Affordable Care Act was the signature proposal of a president elected with a large popular mandate, it had the support of a plurality of the public, and it was passed by a party that had large majorities in both chambers of Congress and had attempted to solicit the participation of the minority.
Now we have a Supreme Court nomination — the second in as many years — from an unpopular president who lost the popular vote by 2.8 million. The nominee will be forced through by also-unpopular Senate Republicans, who, like House Republicans, did not win a majority of the vote in 2016.
Compounding the outrage, each of the prospective nominees is all but certain, after joining the court, to support the eventual overturning of Roe v. Wade, which has held the nation together in a tenuous compromise on abortion for 45 years and is supported by two-thirds of Americans . For good measure, the new justice may well join the other four conservative justices in revoking same-sex marriage, which also has the support of two-thirds of Americans. And this comes after the Republicans essentially stole a Supreme Court seat by refusing to consider President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.
You can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it.
Republicans have been defying gravity for some time. As New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait reminds us in a smart piece, they lost the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections. Electoral college models show Republicans could plausibly continue to win the White House without popular majorities.
Because of partisan gerrymandering and other factors, Democrats could win by eight percentage points and still not gain control of the House, one study found. And the two-senators-per-state system (which awards people in Republican Wyoming 70 times more voting power than people in Democratic California) gives a big advantage to rural, Republican states.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has protected Republican minority rule. It gave the wealthy freedom to spend unlimited dark money on elections, while crippling the finances of unions. It sustained gerrymandering and voter-suppression laws that reduce participation of minority voters. And, of course, it gave the presidency to George W. Bush.
Control of the judiciary, and the resulting protection of minority rule, has been the prize for Republicans who tolerated President Trump’s starting a trade war, losing allies while getting cozy with Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin, flirting with white supremacists, paying off a porn star and attacking the justice system while his former advisers are indicted and convicted.
Now Republicans will seize their solid fifth vote on the court without pause or compunction. But how long do they think they can sustain this? What happens when Roe is overturned?
The backlash is coming. It is the deserved consequence of minority-rule government protecting the rich over everybody else, corporations over workers, whites over nonwhites and despots over democracies. It will explode , God willing, at the ballot box and not in the streets.
You can only ignore the will of the people for so long and get away with it. – Washington Post