A variety of far-right activist groups are furious with one of their ostensible allies, and they're eager to make their feelings known. The target of conservatives' ire is Sen. Jerry Moran (R) of Kansas -- who last week said Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland should receive a confirmation hearing before being rejected.
Adam Brandon, head of the conservative activist group FreedomWorks, said Mr. Moran's support for a vote on Judge Garland "is a perfect example as to why conservative activists have no faith in their elected officials." "They send a signal that Republicans will sell out their principles when it becomes politically convenient to do so," he said.
The Topeka Capital-Journal in Moran's home state of Kansas reported that the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative legal group, announced late last week, "We are in the process of putting the finishing touches on a robust, multi-faceted TV, digital, and grassroots campaign designed to remind Senator Moran that he represents the people of Kansas and neither President Obama nor the Democratic Party."
The same article noted that the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund is considering an election-year plan in which far-right activists would urge Milton Wolf, who ran an unsuccessful Senate primary campaign in 2014, to take on Moran this year. Wolf hasn't ruled it out, saying the other day, "Jerry Moran is living proof that Washington career politicians lie to voters and are bad at their jobs."
For good measure, Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, called Moran's remarks "outrageous," "crazy," and "politically stupid."
Given all of this, one might think Moran had endorsed Garland's nomination, or perhaps defended the judge's qualifications. But that's not what happened. Moran actually took the opposite position. The right is livid with a conservative senator who wants to defeat a judicial nominee the right opposes.
In fact, the Kansas Republican has said in no uncertain terms he opposes Garland's nomination and intends to vote against his confirmation, regardless of the nominee's qualifications, temperament, or any other consideration. By most sensible measures, Moran's position is absurd: he intends to reject the same moderate nominee some Republicans urged President Obama to send to the Senate for consideration.
So, if Moran is taking the same position the far-right expects him to take, why are conservatives in such an uproar? Because the GOP senator believes the Senate Judiciary Committee should hold a hearing on Garland -- just as the Senate Judiciary Committee has done for every Supreme Court nominee for generations -- and then the chamber should reject him.
And in 2016, this -- expressing support for the American system of government moving forward in the most basic of ways -- has been deemed an outrageous betrayal by the Republicans' right-wing base.
It's not enough to oppose a qualified court nominee; GOP senators must also oppose the process itself.
Probably surprised by the enmity, Moran issued a statement intended to calm the waters. "I am opposed to President Obama's Supreme Court nominee and this administration's attempt to put another liberal judge on the Supreme Court," the senator said. "As I have said since the vacancy was created, I believe I have a duty to ask tough questions and demand answers. I am certain a thorough investigation would expose Judge Garland's record and judicial philosophy, and disqualify him in the eyes of Kansans and Americans."
No dice. This only made conservative activist grounds angrier.
The dirty little secret is that the right believes confirmation hearings would be a disaster. Garland is, by any sensible measure, a widely respected, extremely qualified moderate. Giving him a platform -- the same platform every Supreme Court nominee has received throughout modern American history -- would mean giving him an opportunity to discredit conservative talking points intended to bring him down.
In other words, a fair, public hearing would expose the truth, which is the one thing the right can't afford to allow.
For the record, Moran, who is seeking re-election this year, is not currently facing a primary opponent -- at least as of this writing -- and the official filing deadline is June 1. If there is a primary, it would be held two months later, on Aug. 2.