President Obama discussed Republican obstruction to his nomination of Merrick Garland at a town hall-like meeting of law students and journalists at the University of Chicago Law School.
It was pretty informative, particularly the question-and-answer session, where he fielded questions from the crowd on everything from drones to legislation and executive orders.
Obama discussed how the nation got to such a hardened partisan state, “I think what changed is when Congress and the Senate itself began to change. I think in some ways the judicial process is a casualty of some broader problems. First of all our politics have become much more polarized. There’s been something called the great sorting because of gerrymandering, because of how our media works where folks either watch Fox News, or they read the New York Times, but rarely do both, positions get hardened and reinforced. Partisans carry more weight within each party. The notion of a liberal Republican or a conservative Democrat those things broke down, so politics itself got more polarized.”
The President said that Democrats are not blameless, but there has not been a circumstance in which a Republican president’s appointee did not get a hearing or vote, and in general have been confirmed even where there have been strong objections.”
Obama also laid out why Mitch McConnell’s obstruction is dangerous to our democracy, “What you have here is I think a circumstance in which those in the Senate have decided that placating our base is more important than upholding their constitutional and institutional roles in our democracy in a way that is dangerous. And there are other examples of it, but this judicial nominating process has become an extreme example of it.”