Recent editorials from Idaho newspapers:
The courts have already been packed
Idaho Mountain Express
Former Vice President Joe Biden is asked, over and over, whether he will pack the U.S. Supreme Court if he is elected president. The better question is why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been allowed to spend the last six years packing the lower courts.
With Republicans feeling no shame about the hypocrisy of filling a Supreme Court vacancy at warp speed in the middle of an election after righteously blocking even a vote on former President Barack Obama’s nominee for almost a year, fuming Democrats said they might increase the number of Supreme Court justices should they win the election. The idea was immediately labeled “court packing.”
Packing the Supreme Court is not even possible under today’s laws. No one person, not even the president, can change the makeup of the court. In 1937, a frustrated President Franklin Roosevelt introduced a proposal to increase the number of justices. Republican and Democratic senators voted “no.”
McConnell, on the other hand, has succeeded in packing lower courts. By blocking and slow-walking judicial nominees during the 2015-16 session, he required Obama to leave office with nearly 100 judicial vacancies unfilled.
According to the Brookings Institute, that Senate session saw fewer and slower confirmations than for any president, Democrat or Republican, for decades before. Since 2016, McConnell has sidelined nearly all other Senate business to push through 218 judges, including two Supreme Court justices. There are another 35 nominees, including one Supreme Court justice, on deck.
In a world-class example of gaslighting, President Trump blames Obama for not filling vacancies during his term. Nor was the confirmation circus in the Senate last week a comment on the competence or suitability of Amy Coney Barrett as an associate justice. This is about the functioning of the courts in America’s system of check and balances.
Judges fast-tracked into court openings created by the political maneuverings of one political party and one man in particular warp that system. The assumption of bias gets baked in even if future rulings aren’t assured.
Political parties can choose to name justices who reflect their political leanings, but lifetime appointments assume they will make decisions on the bench based on their role as the neutral arbiters they were intended to be. When both parties play fair by the spirit of the Constitution, the makeup of the judiciary should balance out over time.
Court packing can interrupt that balance or restore it. What’s important is the difference.
Online: Idaho Mountain Express
How did Soto get in front of Fulcher?
A fundraising report can serve as a barometer of a political campaign.
Not the only one, of course, but, as political forecaster Charlie Cook put it last week, “Money is not only a fuel for campaigns, it is also a sign of political health.”
So how do you explain what’s going on in Idaho’s 1st Congressional District?
You won’t find a more Republican patch of turf anywhere. From the Canadian border to the Ada County line, the region has a dearth of Democrats in the state Legislature. Is there a more isolated figure than Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow?
Two years ago, the congressional district elected Republican Russ Fulcher with nearly 63 percent of the vote. He’s supposed to be coasting toward reelection against Democratic challenger Rudy Soto.
Yet it’s Fulcher who’s come up short in the recent fundraising sweepstakes. In the preelection quarterly report covering the period between July 1 and Sept. 30:
- Soto raised $120,864 compared to $95,273 for the incumbent. That’s no fluke. For the previous six weeks between May 14 and June 30, the two virtually tied - Soto raised $44,183 compared to $46,505 for Fulcher.
- During the two-year cycle, Fulcher has taken in more money - $474,801 compared to $240,051 for Soto. But going into the final stretch, they’re comparatively equal. Fulcher has about $101,000 cash on hand while Soto has $58,500.
- In the final quarter, Fulcher drew more than half of his money from political action committees, such as House Freedom Fund, the national credit union PAC and Micron Technology PAC. Less than 7 percent of Soto’s reported collecting in this period came from political action committees, the bulk of them from Indian tribes, including the Coeur d’Alene, the Nez Perce and the Shoshone Bannock.
- Soto collected nearly 93 percent of his money from individuals, who wrote checks as small as $10. About 46 percent of Fulcher’s money came from individuals. The smallest check he collected was $250.
PACS don’t vote.
And Soto reported nearly four times as many individuals who gave him money. Regardless of whether they handed over $10 or $250, anyone who makes a contribution is sufficiently committed to follow through at the ballot box.
However counter-intuitive this headline is, it remains an indisputable signal of momentum. Soto is not another Democratic placeholder who raises a miniscule amount of money, shows up for a debate and fails to register name recognition with voters.
This is a robust campaign being waged by a candidate who has assembled a network of supporters nationally coupled with an organization on the ground that has raised money and may be capable of operating an effective get-out-the-vote effort.
It is also evidence of the national Democratic cash machine, which is swamping the GOP from the top of the ticket to such national hot spots as Senate contests in South Carolina or even Montana. Some of that money is finding its way to Idaho.
And what about Fulcher?
The most vulnerable time for any member of Congress is his first reelection campaign. The point is not only to prevail, but to win so convincingly that any future challengers will be dissuaded.
Did Fulcher not anticipate a Democrat capable of raising money against him?
Even if Fulcher was caught napping, nothing short of a Democratic tsunami the likes of which no one has seen since the 1930s is going to dislodge him.
Just the same, this is something you don’t see every day in Idaho - a Democrat who has exploited a Republican’s complacency.
Online: The Lewiston Tribune
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