The elephant in the room for vulnerable Republicans reluctantly drawn into an indiscriminate filibuster of President Obama’s coming Supreme Court nominee is that the fight is likely to have greater reach than a generic confirmation battle. The New York Times, for instance, has reported that black voters sense racial bias in the decision to effectively nullify Obama’s appointment power. That sense will be exacerbated when (as is widely suspected) Obama nominates an ethnic minority to the bench. Among potential nominees with media buzz: Tino Cuellar and Leondra Kruger of the California Supreme Court, and Sri Srinivasan of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Cuellar would be the first Mexican-born justice; Kruger the first black female justice; Indian-born Srinivasan the Court’s first justice of Asian descent.
The question of whether these potential nominees would motivate segments of the Democratic voting base is an open and somewhat cynical one. But as far as I know, there’s nothing stopping Obama from sending all three names (and perhaps others) to the Senate, as if to say, “Pick one!” There’s certainly nothing stopping him from nominating one, while leaking his short list to signal that if the Senate rejects a qualified nominee, he will substitute another.
The indiscriminate filibuster threat is political hardball born of weakness: the fear that Democrats might flip the court. The proper strategic response is to target their source of strength (the filibuster) and use it to exacerbate the weakness.