By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog
As I write this, the President is about to name a Supreme Court nominee. Looking ahead to the next few days of marathon coverage, I'd give one piece of advice:
The Republicans would be wise to view this as an opportunity to expand their base, rather than engage in the kind of "shrill" outrage to which Tom Ridge referred recently on MSNBC. No matter whom the president chooses the Republicans should keep their powder dry—especially when it comes to divisive issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and gun control—for several reasons.
First, the president is going to pick a progressive liberal no matter what. Because this liberal nominee will be replacing liberal David Souter, the balance of the court will not be affected, and so to some degree fighting the president's nomination is an exercise in futility. (And who knows—maybe the nominee will turn out, like Souter did, to be the opposite of everyone's expectations.) He's not going to name anyone who is a conservative, so it's pointless to be outraged when he names a liberal. Why not instead use the spotlight as a way to show the GOP is more moderate when it comes to social issues than has been portrayed in the media lately? Make the case for why moderates should be concerned about the nominee, if that's true, and do so with an attitude of thoughtfulness and integrity, not extremism and divisiveness.
Second, the nominee will probably be a woman, and millions of women around the country will be watching the nomination battle closely. There are plenty of women in the Northeast, Midwest and West who have left the GOP who are economically successful, socially moderate and fiscally conservative. The way Republicans respond to this nomination might help win those women back. The Senate Republicans who will be handling the confirmation have an opportunity to come across as principled but not extreme, reasonable and moderate on the kind of social issues that the Supreme Court deals with regularly. If I were in charge, I'd put Kay Bailey Hutchison out front on this one. She's the antidote to the ugly hostility that has infected the GOP, and she can best make the case to all the women watching that the Republican Party isn't just Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney talking to each other all the time.
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