On the website of The Nation today, Ari Berman makes a persuasive argument that the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia has turned the makeup of the Supreme Court into the preeminent issue in this election. “ It’s become a cliché every presidential cycle,” Berman writes, “to say that the Court should be one of the most important issues in the election but this year, following the death of Antonin Scalia, it’s never been truer. The next president will almost certainly appoint one or more Justices, especially if Republicans zealously oppose whomever President Obama nominates, which will shape the direction of the court for decades.” And he mentions that at the heart of the deliberations and decisions of the Supreme Court will be such issues as ealthcare, gay marriage, voting rights, affirmative action, reproductive rights, labor rights, immigration, and climate change.
Few would disagree with Berman. But I would go a step further and make explicit two things that seem implicit in his argument: First, Scalia’s sudden death and everything that follows from it gives fresh, really incontrovertible, evidence that the overriding political task at this moment is to decisively defeat the Republicans in November, beginning with their Presidential candidate. No other task has anywhere near the same weight or carries the same urgency or stands to reconfigure the political landscape as much as the outcome of these elections do.
Second, electability should become a larger consideration in the calculus of Democratic Party primary voters. This isn’t to say that nothing else matters, but making a determination as to whether Hillary or Bernie is best positioned to beat the Republican rival in November should be a crucial consideration to Democratic Party primary voters when they go to the polls in the coming weeks and months. Electability isn’t a dirty word. Losing in November, need I remind anybody, would really suck. And that’s putting it mildly.