When Joe Biden picked Merrick Garland — Obama’s previous transitory, Republican-appeasing, milquetoast nominee for the Supreme Court — as his Attorney General, the virtue signalling rang a false note of “gotcha revenge” to try to show Democrats that he, Big Joe Biden, was finishing the job Obama started while also attempting to poke Mitch McConnell in the glassy eye. Unfortunately for the United States, Merrick Garland as Attorney General, is turning out to be as popular as a turd in a fish bowl. Here’s why.
Merrick Garland is an institutionalist. He respects legal precedents. He protects what has come before. He is conservative of mind and regimented of spirit. Those qualities were supposed to signal to Republicans, during Obama’s turn, that Garland was a harmless middle-of-the-roader who would not rock the Supreme Court boat, and who would go along with both sides of the aisle, while appealing to the midline, middling, middle class that wants stability and not change.
Well, look how well that worked out. McConnell spiked Garland for the Supreme Court and Biden’s attempt to spite McConnell back by resurrecting Garland’s corpse isn’t convincing and isn’t working. There’s an old saying in dramatic writing that you “can’t play the same moment twice” because the audience is bored with a repetition they have previously witnessed, and in picking Garland to lead the Justice Department, Biden played Obama’s failed moment twice.
Because Garland is himself, and not Bill Barr, and because Garland respects the precedent of the law, that means all the awful things Bill Barr and Donald Trump did to our nation now need guarding, and protecting by Garland’s Department of Justice. Barr and Trump comprehensively attacked the rule of law, and set all sorts of new precedent, and Garland now appears to feel a duty to protect those awful policies, and decisions — instead of reversing them — because that’s what happened, and that’s what needs to be preserved in case it may need to happen again in the future.
Instead of taking an axe to the Barr Department of Justice, Garland appears to want to preserve all that happened as — awful in amber — and our belief is intentionally suspended that we ever truly believed Biden would actually pick an activist Attorney General who would set right the injustices of the Trump administration, and punish them with the righteous rule of law, using the same fervor, and fever, that Barr carried out against the good of us in supporting Trump’s cruel political tactics.
Biden, like Obama, had a chance to change history. He has a Democrat House and Senate. He could have picked a really tough, smart, and justice-seeking Attorney General, and made our world, the entire world, right again. Instead, he chose the easy path of playground revenge by trying to teach Mitch McConnell a lesson by hiring Garland — while the rest of us suffer in living with the ongoing ramifications of three Wednesdays in January with no chance for justice in sight.
Sure, there’s an old cudgel that says democracies don’t prosecute their predecessors for political gain — but there’s a distinction with a difference in that thought when it comes to Trump and his gang. Some official deeds are so awful, and so actionable, that they require breaking precedent to set right the whole democracy. Otherwise, the bad guys win, and their broken promises, abstraction of settled law, and unfathomable eternal viciousness, becomes embedded in our system as the right and proper path forward based on the disturbing, dramatic, disestablishmentarianism acts of the past padded by treason, and wrapped in insurrection.
I keep hoping we’ll get some real news from Garland’s office that officials in the Trump order will be prosecuted — if there is no real fear of the law, or trembling in destroying the justice system — why have a set of laws in the first place? Garland must get this right. He must respond. He must be public, and transparent, in his directed prosecution of what happened over the last four years. What he has done so far is not enough. It will never be enough. He needs to stop protecting Bill Barr.
When I watch Merrick Garland speak, he seems terribly fearful. I know he knows about all the humiliating things that were done to our country, but he must now summon up the legal courage to do something about it. We, The People — demand he respect the law and enforce it. We don’t want anything from the Trump era to be institutionalized as a protected precedent. Do something! Act! Set history right again!
I admit the one thing Republicans know how to do is play hardball. They won the presidency and didn’t waste a minute getting their people in place to create the most chaos possible. It worked. They won. Elections matter. If the GOP wins the White House again, we’ll have Merrick Garland and Joe Biden to thank for not stopping the radicalization of the Department of Justice that Garland is now protecting, and caring for, while the rest of the country burns.
I don’t completely blame Biden and Obama and Garland for this mess that isn’t getting set right — I also blame Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer for the concurrent demolition of our democracy in the self-preservation of their own decaying egos. Their longevity was, and is, more important to them than it is to the rest of society. If liberals prefer to go their own way, and refuse to see the political reality surrounding the fog of their mind, then they cannot be upset when conservatives bind together to get things done, and push their agenda forward with the reductive dedication of a Borg hive mind united.
If Democrats don’t want to fight for the win after they win, then what good are they to the rest of us who faithfully voted for them to do the right thing? They’re leaving the Republican cabal untouched, and weighted, and they’re leaving it to the rest of us to fight; and we will have to fight them.
The Hard Right won the Supreme Court. That Court is now lost for the next generation. State elections are currently rigged in favor of the GOP. Democrats can’t even come together long enough to stave off the inevitable inequities the Right is leaning into for racial profit.
The lesson in all of this is when conservatives push forward their radical, religious, and women-punishing policies, and win, they don’t stop at the win. They will push for more. If there is no resistance, they will push even hard to punish even more. The GOP are the loud minority that rules the meek majority. There is Big Money at stake — because above all of this political fray, sit the wealthy — the real, and true, power minority in America — pulling all the strings of accommodation that leaden the levers of democracy.