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The October Surprise …

Ted Vail: Not only will the future of American democracy be at stake, but the future of American women will be up the air
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Will there be an “October Surprise”? Now we know there will be, with the just announced tragic death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a month and a half before the most important Presidential election in American history.

Not only will the future of American democracy be at stake, but the future of American women will be up the air, as the Supreme Court will soon rule on a case determining if abortion will remain legal in America.

Not only will the future of American democracy be at stake, but the future of American women will be up the air

Both Majority Leader “Moscow Mitch” McConnell and Senator Lindsay Graham, the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, are up for reelection in November. It looks like they will proceed “full speed ahead” with the nomination of a right-wing replacement to Justice Ginsburg.

Mitch has also just said that he will force a vote on Justice Ginsburg’s replacement on the Senate floor this year. This, in spite of the fact that both he and Graham stated after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016, when Obama was still President, that they would not even hold any hearings on any Obama nominee, because the next President should decide who should have that seat on the Court.

The only instances since 1900 of a President nominating to the Supreme Court during his last year in office was 1968, when Lyndon Johnson nominated Judge Homer Thornbury as a Justice and Justice Abe Fortas as Chief Justice, replacing retiring Chief Justice Earl Warren in June, 1968 (nominations withdrawn in October, 1968), and the infamous Judge Merrick Garland nomination by President Obama in February, 2016, who was not even given a hearing by Moscow Mitch.

The 2020 Election Horror Story

The worst horror story would be if Biden wins the election in a landslide, the Senate swings to a strong Democrat majority, and the House remains Firmly under Democrat control, but Moscow Mitch tries to ram through a “Lame Duck” appointment to the Supreme Court before next year.

Here is how it would happen: during the “Lame Duck” period from following the November 3 election to the end of 2020, the 116th Congress will hold its final sessions before adjourning and making way for the 117th Congress, which will convene on January 3, 2021. At that point, all pending legislation and judicial nominations will be vacated and will have to be reintroduced in the new Congress.

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So let’s say that before the election, Trump nominates the worst possible choice to replace Justice Ginsburg, a conservative female judge who will vote to repeal Roe v Wade, to gut major voting rights rulings, to help destroy the environment, and to vote to destroy Obamacare. Then, in early December, 2020, after Biden has won in a landslide and the Democrats are looking forward to becoming the majority party in the Senate in a matter of weeks, Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsay Graham holds a hearing on the nomination, which is as contested as the Kavanaugh hearing was.

Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris, who is on the Judiciary Committee, gets additional time to question the nominee from two fellow Democrats on the Committee, and eviscerates the nominee on her cross-examination. Susan Collins, in an impossible situation, is absent from the vote, claiming illness, but the nominee is passed through to the Senate floor by an 11-10 vote.

After the hearing on the floor of the Senate convenes, Senator Bernie Sanders begins a filibuster against any vote on the nomination, speaks for eight hours, and then turns the podium over to another Democratic Senator, who speaks for eight hours, and then another Senator, and then another, stalling the Senate from conducting any other business, including necessary year-end legislation. Attempts to invoke the “nuclear option” cloture vote fails repeatedly, when Moscow Mitch cannot get a majority of Republican Senators to support it.

After a week, however, the filibuster collapses, and the Senate votes immediately to confirm the nominee just before Christmas, 2020. Newly confirmed Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, sworn in on November 30 after defeating appointed Arizona Republican Senator Martha McSally in a special election, votes against the nomination. Also voting against the nomination are Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney, who both urge that the seat be filled by incoming President Biden. But with the Senate tied 50-50, outgoing Vice President Pence casts the deciding vote to confirm the nomination.

Throughout the month of December, the country is also faced with President Trump’s contesting of the election outcome, resulting in the Congress, when it meets to count the electoral votes on December 14, deciding not to certify enough electoral votes to give Biden a clear majority. Trump also challenges the votes in several other key battleground states, and files suit to get the results in those states declared invalid.

The country is outraged, and demonstrations occur in every major city in the U.S. Trump’s lawsuit reaches the Supreme Court in record time, which in a replay of the 2000 Supreme Court decision in Bush v Gore, supports Trump’s position by a 5 to 3 party line vote, and vacates the election.

Trump declares himself reelected President. The new Senate convenes on January 3, 2021, as does the House, and the House immediately passes Articles of Impeachment of President Trump, but the Senate, as it did early in 2020, fails to get the votes of 67 Senators to convict. Trump is reinaugurated in a secret ceremony in a bunker below the White House, which is televised to the nation, but only with Republicans in attendance.

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The American military leadership prepares to stage a coup d’etat to remove President Trump from office, replaying what happened in the early 1990s in the Soviet Union…

Thus begins the Second American Civil War…

Ted Vaill