Although a handful of Andrew Scheer loyalists pretended otherwise, there was a sense of inevitability about his sudden departure as leader of the Conservative Party.
The sting of Scheer’s defeat last October was magnified by high expectations.
Every candidate thinks they’re going to win, but in Scheer’s case, amid the swirling controversies surrounding Justin Trudeau’s government, there was not just hope but an expectation that Scheer would supplant Trudeau as prime minister.
With expectations so high among Conservative supporters and the party hierarchy, the failure of the Conservatives to grab the reins of power on election night sent party members looking for reasons to explain the unexpected defeat — in other words, something or someone to blame.
It was at that point that Scheer became a political dead man walking within his own party.
Unpacking the politics: will Andrew Scheer be able to stay on as interim Conservative leader?
The same thing happened to the NDP’s Tom Mulcair in the 2015 election.
Canadian voters had grown tired of the Harper government. Few, if any, pundits gave the third-place Liberals with a rookie leader much of a chance to win, so it seemed that Opposition leader Mulcair was poised to become the first NDP prime minister in Canadian history.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the polls.
The surging Liberals formed a majority government, and Mulcair and the NDP were left wondering what could have been.
It wasn’t too long after that disappointing result that the NDP sprung the trap door on their leader.
There were a few faint cries from the Conservative caucus to give Scheer another chance, but politics is not like a friendly weekend golf game where mulligans and gimmes are allowed: it’s a vicious blood sport, and when your political detractors smell blood, the attacks can be relentless and fatal to your political career.
Scheer’s demise underscores a harsh reality; in politics, there are only two places — first place and no place.
Increasing your percentage of the popular vote or gaining a few more seats for your party are consolation prizes at best. They’re meaningless if you don’t win the grand prize.
It may be cold comfort for Scheer to realize he’s not the first politician to come face to face with that jarring reality, and he most certainly will not be the last.
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Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash – The New York Times
WASHINGTON — The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump stepped to the podium in the Rose Garden of the White House on Saturday evening to announce his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grass-roots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds and Senate inboxes.
If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Judge Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending — and potentially much more — and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign between Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr.
The goal is ostensibly to try to shape the Senate vote on Judge Barrett’s nomination but, barring some unforeseen development or revelation, there is little expectation that Democrats will be able to stop the Republican-controlled Senate from confirming the judge, who has served on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since November 2017.
Still, partisans on both sides have not made a secret of their plans to use the confirmation fight for political gain.
For Democrats, it is a chance to rally their base, and donors, by highlighting the suddenly very real prospect of a Republican president and Senate delivering a long-lasting conservative Supreme Court majority that could strike down some of the hardest-fought victories of the last half-century, including the Affordable Care Act and the right to an abortion.
For Republicans, it represents an opportunity to secure support from leery conservatives who may have drifted from Mr. Trump, and to energize core parts of the Republican base — including evangelical and Catholic voters — by elevating issues of religion and accusing Democrats of religious intolerance for opposing Judge Barrett, an observant Catholic who is a member of a self-described charismatic Christian community called People of Praise.
Leading Democrats and their allies have signaled that they intend to steer clear of personal criticisms of Judge Barrett, eager to avoid a conservative backlash like the one that emerged in response to Democratic questioning during her 2017 Senate confirmation hearing. During that hearing, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, told the judge that “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
A repeat, Democrats fear, could hurt Mr. Biden, a Catholic himself who openly discusses his faith and hopes to win over Catholic voters despite Mr. Trump’s strong performance with them four years ago.
Mr. Biden’s allies have mostly approached the subject more cautiously and obliquely, raising Judge Barrett’s religious beliefs primarily in the context of her jurisprudence and her associations.
The Democratic super PAC American Bridge, which has through Sunday spent more than $36 million opposing Mr. Trump, released an opposition research file highlighting Judge Barrett’s affiliations with religious conservative groups that oppose abortion rights. The file included the false claim that she was a member of a Trump-allied conservative legal nonprofit group called the Thomas More Society, which is suing to block Democratic cities from accepting private funds to administer elections during the pandemic, arguing it would help Mr. Biden’s campaign. (American Bridge removed the claim that Judge Barrett was a member of the Thomas More Society after being asked about it by The New York Times.)
The research file also highlighted a scholarly paper Judge Barrett helped to write in the late 1990s about how the Catholic Church’s campaign against capital punishment “puts Catholic judges in a bind” between their oath to enforce the death penalty and their obligation “to adhere to their church’s teaching on moral matters.”
But some Democrats have been more pointed in calling attention to Judge Barrett’s faith. Katie Hill, a former congresswoman from California who runs a political action committee supporting Democratic women, wrote on Twitter last week that Judge Barrett “comes from a religion that is straight out of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’” — the dystopian novel and television series about a totalitarian state that has overthrown the United States government — “because of course she does,” adding an expletive for emphasis.
Ms. Hill said in an email on Sunday that her political action committee, HER Time, was working to rally opposition to Judge Barrett’s confirmation, and that questions about whether the judge “will impose her faith on the American people” were fair game. “Someone’s religion is important when their religious beliefs are part of the way they make decisions that come before that court,” Ms. Hill said, accusing Judge Barrett of holding “anti-women, anti-L.G.B.T.Q. positions, which are rooted in her religion” and saying they would “factor into her decisions on the court.”
Republicans have eagerly highlighted similar attacks, as well as examples of liberals scrutinizing Judge Barrett’s family — she has seven children, including two adopted from Haiti.
Mr. Trump, at a White House news conference on Sunday afternoon, accused Democrats of “really brazenly attacking Judge Barrett for, again, her faith.” Singling out Senator Feinstein, the president said, “I think they ought to treat religion with much more respect.”
The anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List on Saturday evening began a digital advertising campaign featuring a one-minute video that calls attention to Judge Barrett’s legal bona fides and religious background, and accuses Democrats of “attacking her faith.” The ad is part of what the group says will be “a seven-figure investment” supporting Judge Barrett’s confirmation.
The White House has encouraged social and religious conservative groups to focus on Judge Barrett’s personal life in their campaigns supporting her confirmation. During a private conference call with more than 500 representatives of social and religious conservative groups an hour after her Rose Garden speech, senior White House staff members emphasized her family and pointed out social media posts from Republicans that did the same, including a tweet from Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, praising her devotion to “faith, family, and the U.S. Constitution.”
Douglas L. Hoelscher, the director of the White House’s office of intergovernmental affairs, urged the groups to pull out all of the stops in support of a frenzied push to speed the nomination through the Senate in the weeks before Election Day.
“We really appreciate our stakeholders already rolling up their sleeves and engaging to have their voice added to a positive echo for the president’s nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett,” Mr. Hoelscher said. “We will come back to you to help us along the way over the next month.”
He added, “We need to have your voice in the fight and we know you’re ready for that fight.”
Allied groups on the Democratic side are no less ready.
About two minutes into Mr. Trump’s introduction of Judge Barrett, the liberal group Demand Justice sent an email to its supporters urging them to “chip in immediately to put pressure on Senators to vote NO on confirming Amy Coney Barrett.”
The group pledged last week to spend $10 million to try to block the confirmation of any justice before the presidential inauguration in January, and to target vulnerable Republican senators who support such a nomination. Even before the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg created the Supreme Court vacancy, Demand Justice had begun a $2 million digital advertising campaign in July, trying to elevate the court as an issue in competitive states in the presidential race.
Those ads are unlikely to focus on Judge Barrett’s religious beliefs, according to Brian Fallon, the group’s executive director. He issued a statement last week saying that his group had “zero interest” in raising questions about the nominee’s Catholic faith.
On the right, the planned campaigns by Trump-allied groups to defend Judge Barrett will be expensive. The Republican National Committee said on Saturday that it was kicking off a $10 million effort, which will include a digital ad campaign and a get-out-the-vote operation that the party’s chairwoman, Ronna McDaniel, said would “aggressively promote the qualifications of Judge Barrett, and use the issue to galvanize voters.”
America First Policies, a nonprofit group started by allies of Mr. Trump, on Saturday night announced national television, digital and direct-mail advertising buys of more than $5 million. The first television advertisement in the group’s campaign, featuring praise for Judge Barrett from the faculty at Notre Dame Law School, where she is a professor, is set to air on Tuesday during the first debate between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.
Brian O. Walsh, the group’s president, said the $5 million was the group’s starting point, and that it was prepared to spend more if necessary. He emphasized the importance of introducing Judge Barrett to the country “on our terms.”
Privately, conservative activists concede that the push to support Judge Barrett stands little chance of affecting the outcome, since there are few senators whose votes are seen as being in play and whom conservatives believe they can effectively sway to vote yes. Few, if any, Democrats are likely to support the nomination, and a campaign targeting Republicans like Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who has said she opposes filling the vacancy before the election, could backfire by further endangering her chances of winning another term and Republicans’ hopes of holding onto the Senate.
During the earlier battles over the confirmations of Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Neil M. Gorsuch, control of the Senate was not hanging in the balance. Conservative activists said that with so much on the line now, they would have to take a more targeted and cautious approach.
For some groups, the spending on the nomination fight might have an added tax benefit, helping them fulfill requirements that they spend more than half of their annual budgets for purposes other than partisan politics. Ads about the Supreme Court could qualify as nonpartisan, even if they come across as supporting one party or the other.
The anti-tax Club for Growth and the group Catholic Vote are expected to spend money as part of the broader effort, a person familiar with the planning said.
The religious conservative group American Principles Project began a new campaign through the website GloriousACB.org, while the most active conservative group in court fights, the Judicial Crisis Network, pledged to spend $10 million on ads and a “grass-roots mobilization campaign” supporting Judge Barrett. The Judicial Crisis Network’s first ad supporting Judge Barrett’s confirmation casts Democrats who are arguing against the nomination as “extremists” who are “shamefully trying to change the facts” about quickly confirming a Supreme Court justice in an election year.
Carrie Severino, the president of the Judicial Crisis Network, said her group had become more battle-hardened after the fight over Justice Kavanaugh in 2018. “We’re ready for creative minds among Democrats” to depict Judge Barrett in a negative light, she said.
On a videoconference with activists on Saturday night, Tim Phillips, the president of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, this is going to be, in all candor, a big battle — we know that, given the polarization these days in politics.”
The call came as the group, funded by the political network created by the industrialist billionaires Charles and David Koch, announced “a significant national ad campaign” supporting Judge Barrett’s confirmation in 10 states in which there are competitive Senate races. The advertising will complement a push encouraging the group’s activists around the country to call their senators to urge them to support the nomination.
In the videoconference, Casey Mattox, Americans for Prosperity’s vice president for legal and judicial strategy, urged activists to act quickly “because this is going to be a pretty compressed time frame as we go through this process.”
He added, “We don’t have a lot of time with a nomination like this.”
Politics Chat: President Trump Nominates Amy Coney Barrett For Supreme Court – NPR
The realities of politics and the judiciary – Financial Times
The writer is an FT contributing editor
The unattractive politics of Donald Trump quickly nominating Amy Coney Barrett to fill the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court has prompted some self-congratulation in the UK. Things are done differently here, is the comforting thought, for the appointment of judges is not politicised.
The truth is, however, that in England and Wales at least (Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal systems) there has always been a substantial overlap of law and politics: it is just that the British are rather good at pretending otherwise.
Take the historical appointment of judges. Until the previous century, it was practice that the senior office of the lord chief justice, who presided over the most serious criminal trials, followed political service. Similarly, attorneys-general retiring from parliament were often made High Court judges. There was much fluidity between the political and judicial establishments.
At the apex of the constitution, the ancient office of lord chancellor entitled its holder to sit both in the cabinet and as a judge in the most senior court of the land. Remarkably, this carried on until Tony Blair’s first Labour government of 1997 to 2001. The notion that there has always been some total structural divide between politicians and judges in England betrays a lack of knowledge of the country’s legal history.
Even now, barristers (the lawyers who tend to present cases in court) are encouraged to provide regular legal services to ministers and officials at a substantial discount so as to obtain promotion to the judiciary by joining a prestigious panel. The best of them are given income streams as “Treasury counsel”, charged with helping the government out of awkward or sensitive political-legal situations; in return they are often appointed as a High Court judge. In this way judicial preferment is formally based in part on assisting ministers and officials.
And when appointed, judges are often in effect lawmakers and policymakers, though they cloak it as “developing” existing law. Over the past 20 years, they have introduced an entirely new privacy law, with no explicit statutory basis. The most senior UK Supreme Court judges now also frequently make and publish extrajudicial speeches on general public policy issues, which are often a better guide for understanding the direction of the law than anything said in parliament.
Once retired, English judges use their status freely to contribute to public debate, as with the notable examples of Jonathan Sumption, a former Supreme Court justice, and Brenda Hale, former president of the Supreme Court. Indeed, the wisest current writer on the relationships between law and policy in the UK is the former Court of Appeal judge Stephen Sedley.
Even in their judgments, rather than their statements outside court, one can see the policies and politics of the judiciary. In the 1970s, the legal academic JAG Griffiths provided a detailed compendium of political judgments; 50 years later one can look online at the reasoning in “public law” cases where the practical boundaries of the state are determined, when of course these boundaries are the most political issues of all.
None of the above is necessarily wrong; much of it is a normal fact of political and legal life. Judges with political worldliness are not a bad thing. And it is good that ministers and officials have ready access to high quality legal advice. The most important question is how to manage the overlap, not to contend that it should not exist.
The problem is with the simplistic and misleading notion that law and politics are completely separate public realms. There is and always will be substantial common ground. The same set of facts can easily be both a matter of political controversy and a question for a court. What needs to be struck is the right balance.
An extreme example of imbalance, of course, is when the executive seeks to extinguish the independence of the judiciary — as in Poland. Since coming to power in 2015, the deliberate policy of the Law and Justice party has been to limit or remove the structural separation of powers, including to change how the Supreme Court head is appointed.
But it is equally an error to insist naively on politics and the judiciary as being absolutely distinct. There may be obvious faults with the US system of appointing Supreme Court judges and federal judges generally, but the main difference between that and the English approach to the politics of the judiciary is that the Americans are open about the relationship, and the English are not.
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