Mid-Day Must Reads

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 12.35.34 PMBelow are a few of the outstanding article that have been published this morning.

Jeffrey Toobin of the New Yorker writes a great piece on the looming Supreme Court confirmation battle, more specifically how we ended up at a place where the party in control of the Senate holds all the cards.

Edward Morrissey writes in The Week about how the confirmation process itself is overshadowing the life and accomplishments of Justice Scalia. A fantastic read.

If you are looking for some lighter material, check out James Poniwozik’s piece in the New York Times that argues how Donald Trump is actually bad for late night comics. Say what? I love articles like this that are enjoyable and light reading, but bring up valid points we may have otherwise overlooked.

Finally for you political nerds, Eliana Johnson from National Review writes a great synopsis on why South Carolina is a critical test for Ted Cruz. There are some great insights there.

The Brute-Force Politics of Judicial Confirmations

On nominations to the Supreme Court and for other judicial vacancies, the rule has been simple. The side with the most brute force has won.

Reid had the power to invoke the nuclear option, and he did it; McConnell has the power to protect the Scalia seat, and he is doing it, at least until the next election. It is thus clearer than ever that the future of the judiciary is decided at the ballot box, not in the courtroom.

How Antonin Scalia became an afterthought in his own demise

That brings us to today, when one of the longest-serving members in the court’s history has largely been forgotten in an unseemly scrum over who replaces him, and when. Republicans have adopted Schumer’s 2007 position, while Democrats forget that the Senate has no obligation to approve nominees — and that it was Democrats who were largely responsible for dispensing with deference to elected presidents in judicial appointments.

Scalia, ironically, spent nearly three decades attempting to move the court back to a less activist model. Had that effort succeeded, it would have made his own passing remarkable in itself rather than a bugle call for both sides to divvy up the spoils.

Even with that, the epic breadth and depth of Scalia’s impact on American jurisprudence may take several more decades to be fully appreciated. At the moment, though, the nearly 30-year tit-for-tat judiciary battle between Republicans and Democrats only deepens the belief among voters that America’s institutions are failing its citizens, and that will be yet another reason for voters in both parties to look outside those institutions to make them work once more.

Donald Trump Is a Conundrum for Political Comedy

How do you spoof a candidate who treats campaigning like a roast?

Mr. Trump is now a serious candidate — often a self-serious, angry one — with a serious chance. But stylistically, he works in the mode and rhythms of a stand-up. He riffs. He goads. He works blue. When he gave a victory speech in New Hampshire, feinted at congratulating his opponents, then pivoted — “Now that I’ve got that over with … ” — he sounded like a sketch comic doing an imitation of himself.

His style has rendered him, weirdly, almost comedy-proof. Election parodies traditionally exaggerate candidates. But Mr. Trump exaggerates himself — he’s the frilled lizard of politics, inflating his self-presentation to appear ever larger. Satire exposes candidates’ contradictions and absurdities. But Mr. Trump blows past those, while his supporters cheer.

And while the get-along guy Jimmy Fallon has a technically fine impression of Mr. Trump, it’s all hair and no teeth.

Ted Cruz: South Carolina is a Big Test

South Carolina, which votes Saturday, will give a good indication of just how sturdy that firewall is. The state is demographically similar to its southern neighbors, with both a large evangelical population (evangelicals constituted nearly two thirds of Republican primary voters in 2012) and a strong tea-party presence. A loss here would be a warning sign that the campaign has overestimated its ability to identify and persuade the voters it needs to carry the South.

In the past, candidates who have run a campaign with explicitly religious themes, and who have cobbled together narrow coalitions — Rick Santorum in 2012, Mike Huckabee in 2008 — have never proved widely successful. Both men won the Iowa caucus and a host of Southern states, but they didn’t fare well in South Carolina. The Palmetto State will provide a more reliable predictor of whether Cruz’s candidacy has the potential to be widely successful, and to make history in the process.

Cruz has the money and the infrastructure Santorum and Huckabee did not, and his campaign is amplifying the tactics that produced victory in Iowa here in South Carolina. As the dual Camp Cruz locations suggest, it remains a ground-focused operation that emphasizes person-to-person contact. “This campaign I believe is gonna be decided by the grassroots,” Cruz told reporters on Monday. “It’s gonna be decided friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor, pastor to pastor, South Carolinian to South Carolinian.”

But Iowa, as a low-turnout caucus state whose voters are pre-conditioned to organizing through their religious institutions, was ideally suited to Cruz’s candidacy. He amassed 28 percent of the vote there. Will he fare as well in South Carolina?