Dear Claire McCaskill: Regarding The Filibuster Of Gorsuch

Dear Senator McCaskill,

I am disturbed by what I read today. CNN reported the following regarding Democratic efforts to filibuster the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch:

As of Monday morning, 10 Democrats have said or suggested they will filibuster. Another eight Democrats have said they’ll opposed Gorsuch in the final confirmation vote, but it’s unclear where they stand on the filibuster.

I searched that article for where you stand on the filibuster. Nothing there. I searched elsewhere. I found nothing. I wrote your office. So far, no answer. Here’s the deal for me:

I knocked on doors for you here in southwest Missouri during  your last election against that freak, Todd Whatshisname. And even given how nuts that guy was, believe me I ran into a lot of stiff opposition to your candidacy. But I thought the rather mild verbal abuse I got from knocking on the wrong doors was worth the effort, because the thought of Todd Whatshisname sitting in the United States Senate was too much to tolerate, if I could help stop it. And it turned out well. You won. You’re in the Senate and he isn’t. That meant something then, and it means something now.

What it means is that you are in a position to do something about holding Republicans accountable for stealing a Supreme Court seat from us last year. I know you know they really did steal that seat, that all-important seat. I’m pretty sure that fact disturbs you as much as it disturbs me. At least I hope it does. But I understand there is a strategy being contemplated by some Senate Democrats that involves a slick manuever of letting the Supreme Court filibuster survive—meaning some Democrats will not support a filibuster against Judge Gorsuch—but will vote against his conformation later to register their opposition. No. No. No. In case you didn’t hear me: No. No. No. Don’t be a part of that. And, further, tell your colleagues not to be a pImage result for claire mccaskillart of it either. It’s not right. It’s phony. It’s cowardly. It’s morally wrong to allow, without putting up a fight, the Republican Party leadership in the Senate to get away so easily with robbing President Obama of his constitutional right to get a vote on his nominee for a seat on the Court.

The other theory I have heard being tossed around is that you guys should not die fighting on the Gorsuch hill, since he merely replaces Scalia and the original “balance” would remain in place. I don’t want to be crude, Senator, so I’ll simply say that idea is the stupidest thing I’ve heard since whatever Tr-mp’s last tweet was. Balance my butt. The Court was not balanced when Scalia was above ground. It was decidedly tilted toward the right. We got the destructive Citizens United decision, among other bad rulings, under that mythical “balanced” Court. This dumb theory envisions moving the fight to the next nominee, where our side will have more leverage. More leverage? How so? Depending on what vacancy comes up, we may have less leverage. We will have lost the immediate force of our moral standing to right an obvious wrong, plus we will be closer to an election year in which, if Republicans are seeking to replace, say, Judge Ginsburg, they will be under great pressure from the right to replace her with another judge straight off Tr-mp’s right-wing list of robed reactionaries. Mitch McConnell will be more likely to kill the filibuster under those circumstances than he might be now.

Waiting and taking such a chance is not worth it, especially when we have the superior moral argument on our side now and the increasingly effective enthusiasm of our base. Senate Democrats shouldn’t squander either by undertaking a strategy of surrender today in hopes of winning some uncertain concession from Republicans tomorrow. And, need I remind you, Republicans are notoriously ruthless when it comes to these things.

President Obama was not three-fifths of a man or a president. Even as our first African-American POTUS of a country that has a racist past, he still had rights that white Senators were bound to respect, though they ultimately decided, in the tradition of the racists before them, not to respect them. He at least deserved the courtesy of getting his nominee a hearing and a vote, even if that nominee, as qualified as he was for the job, might not have ended up getting the necessary votes to sit on the Court. You may not like my reference to racism in this context. I understand that. But Barack Obama faced so many “firsts,” so much unprecedented treatment (“Where’s your real birth certificate?”), that racism, mostly in its subtle, softer form, is as good an explanation as any for the unprecedented treatment he received. And, I might add, treatment he endured with the dignity of a saint.

Another consideration is important, too. That is the fact that we have a man in the White’s House who doesn’t belong there. No. Really. He literally does not belong there. Not only is he mentally disturbed, but the Russians, whatever the outcome of the ongoing FBI investigation is, helped him win. And he begged them to help him win, right out in the open in front of God, Mitch McConnell, and, if hell is real, the smoldering soul of Antonin Scalia. Tr-mp is not a morally legitimate president for a lot of reasons, but none more delegitimizing than what he did on July 27, 2016:

Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.

That was said eight months ago and it still parches my potty portal as much today as it did then. That plea for Russian intervention from his friend Putin should have been disqualifying in itself, but it turned out not to matter to enough Americans. Well, it should have mattered. It should have mattered then and it should matter now, especially to a sitting United States Senator, especially a Democratic one, and especially one who, like you, still gives a damn about what we used to call, without irony, patriotism.

And I haven’t even got to the fact that Tr-mp lost the popular vote. Sure, it matters in our system that he won enough electoral college votes to technically win the presidency, but it also matters that he used information stolen by the Russians to win at least some of those crucial votes in the Rust Belt states. So, the question is, why should a morally illegitimate president, who begged the Russians for help, who openly practiced racism against President Obama, get to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that was stolen by Republicans? Why should the Grand Wizard of the birther movement get to do that? Moreover, why should a man who recently and falsely and delusionally accused President Obama of a grievous “wiretapping” crime get to fill a Court seat that Obama should have filled? Huh?

The bottom line is this, Senator McCaskill: I voted for you and spent some time working on your behalf because I expected, while in office, you would always do your best to do the right thing. I always knew that you and I wouldn’t agree on every issue. I’m a liberal. You have the reputation of a “moderate,” which you enthusiastically embrace sometimes to my chagrin. But I understand the political dynamics of our state. I moved here 30 years ago and this isn’t the same state it was then. Politically, we look more like Louisiana today. Thus, I understand why you sometimes don’t take positions I would take. But I also I understand that most of the time you take the positions I don’t like based on your own principles, not merely to please the mostly rural constituents who I ran into while knocking on doors for you in 2012. You are a principled politician. This is one of those times when principle should triumph over everything else.

This fight involves an issue where I think you cannot afford to vote against what I know has to be your conscience. You were rightly and openly outraged by what the Republicans did to Merrick Garland and President Obama. And the only proper response to what happened is to demand another nominee, one who is comparable to Judge Garland in judicial temperament and philosophy. That’s the only way the constitutional wrong done last year can be made close to right, if such is possible.

You and your Democratic colleagues need to support Minority Leader Schumer’s announced filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination. If that means forcing Mitch McConnell to do away with the filibuster for all time—if that’s what he wants to do to protect the nominee of a “president” who is illegitimate, under a cloud of suspicion for conspiring with our Russian adversaries, and who is a pathological liar—so be it. If McConnell wants to walk that plank, let him do it. Some day, we (Democrats) will control the proceedings. We will only need a majority vote to get our folks on the Court. Then maybe people on our side will take elections more seriously, especially in non-presidential years. Maybe they won’t play games with fringe candidates like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson when so much is at stake.

In any case, what we need now is a fierce stubbornness in this fight. But we also need a fierce patience to compliment that stubbornness. John Dryden said, “Beware the fury of a patient man.” Kierkegaard said, “Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.” Today we filibuster an injustice. Tomorrow the filibuster may be gone. And some fine day in the future we will decide, with a simple majority, who sits on the Court.

Or, maybe, just maybe, Mitch McConnell will not want what’s left of his reputation to die on a hill with Tr-mp’s tattered and tainted flag planted on it. Maybe he will keep the filibuster, Gorsuch will go back to the Tenth Circuit, and we will have a more moderate, less Scalia-like nominee. We will never know, though, unless Democrats stand up and fight like hell. I’m asking you to be one of the 41 fighters we need to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation. And I’m asking you to lobby your fellow Democrats, those who may be considering too-clever-by-half strategies, to also support, not just in spirit but with their votes, a principled filibuster.


Duane Graham



  1. Compelling, Duane.
    Here’s hoping the Senator will heed your call. I don’t hold out much hope of that — even as I hope your message could be shared with Democrats, Independents and people of conscience throughout the U.S. I expect Senator McCaskill will go her own weird, self-serving way.


    • I have a feeling she will do the right thing here. I think the Garland episode really pissed her off and I also think she realizes, pragmatically, that pissing off her base voters will hurt her more than pissing off Tr-mp voters. Under the best of circumstances, her fight in two years will likely be very difficult, unless, of course, Tr-mp completely self-destructs (a prospect increasingly likely as the days pass). The last thing she will need is a primary challenger, which would be all but guaranteed if she does not support the filibuster on Gorsuch.


  2. Steve Wilson

     /  March 27, 2017

    Duane, a few weeks ago my son who is a member of Human Rights Campaign traveled to Washington D.C. for HRC’s annual lobby day. He (and others) met with staff members of Senators Blunt and McCaskill. He said the staff for Claire were very receptive to the serious concerns of the LGBT community. However, when one of the attendees asked what Senator McCaskill’s position was on the nomination of Gorsuch, the staffer replied that she had yet to make up her mind how she was going to vote.

    Your letter is spot on and I can only hope that she would be concerned enough about the future of this country to join the filibuster.


    • Steve,

      I have heard this from more than one source. That’s what made me write her office (still waiting on a response; I like written responses) and write this piece. Like I tried to explain, I understand why some Democrats would consider waiting to fight later on. But if one thinks it through, one realizes that this fight isn’t going to be any different the next time, except, as I said, it likely will be worse. Just imagine if Gorsuch gets through and a liberal judge retires. The pressure to establish, for years to come, a solid, dependable conservative majority would be too great to resist. The time to fight is now, while the base is, as Obama might say, fired up and ready to go.



  3. Very good post, Duane. I like what you’re saying and agree.

    I suffer from a perceived lack of passion about issues, so I understand something of what goes on with a subset of liberals who are perceived as dispassionate and intellectual. I do not like to “convince” others about my opinions, because I believe that convincing someone doesn’t necessarily change their mind, and is therefore limited as a tool to influence others. Taking that stance is frequently seen by passionate opponents of my views as a weak or ineffective position.

    What I have developed instead is what I call a “water drop torture” method. I won’t try to convince you about my point of view, but every time anything relating to it comes up, you will hear about it – gently, and not in a pejorative way, but you will hear about it, again, and again, and again. Guess what? It works. At least it works with most people; I like to think that those for whom it does not work probably would not have listened anyway, so I keep at everyone else, and eventually, those who disagree are “surrounded”.

    Walking the line between being persistent and being passionate is tough. Maybe that’s what Senator McCaskill is trying to do – I don’t know. And maybe this is the time to be passionate, even if that’s not your thing. There might not be more opportunity later…who knows? Acting from the strength of your own principles with little regard for yourself is pretty much always the right thing to do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very interesting, Michael. I often think about the “convincing” or persuasive element of arguing for things like I’m arguing for here. Your method, if it works for you and fits your personality, is likely to work better for you than mine would work for you.

      In the political sphere, politicians tend to respond differently than ordinary folks do. After all, elected officials’ jobs generally depend on what a majority of people want them to do, whether or not the politician thinks it’s right or wrong. So, convincing McCaskill to do something that might help her win a race is not the same as convincing her whether it is the right thing to do, and vice versa. I think you are right to say that acting on your principles, to the extent you have any that can be applied to a particular set of circumstances, is the right thing to do. Sometimes, though, politicians have one overarching principle: get reelected and stay in power. In this particular case, I’m not sure whether the morally right thing to do intersects with the politically expedient thing to do, at least for those Democrats who live in Tr-mp states like Missouri. My guess is that McCaskill will get hurt more if she does not support the filibuster than if she does. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she faced a primary opponent, if she does not go all the way in her opposition to Gorsuch’s nomination. I know I would consider supporting another Democrat, depending on who it was and how I perceived his or her chances of winning.


      Liked by 1 person

  4. I understand your passion on this, Duane, and your outrage over the Garland nomination. I share your feelings. But, I’m having some doubts about your strategy here. It seems to me that uniform party opposition on Gorsuch and other issues will only harden and extend political enmity. Given his penchant for petty revenge, I would expect that even if Tr-ump is forced to withdraw Gorsuch, his next nominee will be worse, not better.

    Also, I think forcing the nuclear option for SCOTUS nominees would be bad for the country in the long run. It would only solidify the partisan divide. The Republic is designed to function on compromise, so for Democrats to abandon that, even if the other side has done so, is a big deal. I think Harry Reid screwed up by invoking it for cabinet positions.


  5. McCaskill has to understand that playing games with the Gorsuch confirmation will win her no votes from Tr-mp voters. It will only anger her base, anger those who she needs to work for her in two years. In the end, I think she will support the filibuster precisely because of that fact. Fingers crossed, though. Still haven’t heard from her office.


  1. Playing coy with Gorsuch will get McCaskill nowhere | Show Me Progress
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