Why aren’t Democrats voting against President Trump’s cabinet nominees en masse? Is it because they’re just a bunch soft-headed Beltway lifers who don’t understand that the base is pissed and wants them to fight fight fight?
Nope. I’m sure they all get that. But there are two reasons not to do this. The first is simple: the tradition that presidents should be able to choose their own cabinet officers really is important. It’s important on its own merits, and it’s also important politically. We simply can’t get to the point where opposition parties routinely vote against every appointee for everything. That would be disastrous anytime different parties control the Senate and the White House.
But maybe this is still too wishy-washy for you. So here’s another reason: if Democrats vote against everyone sight unseen, then Republicans will vote for everyone sight unseen. However, if Democrats demonstrate that they’re considering each candidate on the merits, they have at least a fighting chance of defeating one or two of Trump’s nominees. Betsy DeVos, for example, has shown that she’s flatly ignorant of an astounding amount of basic education policy. It might be possible to persuade two or three Republicans to oppose her on these grounds—but only if the entire confirmation process isn’t a pure partisan battle.
So that’s that. There’s a principled reason for not opposing everyone unanimously, but there’s also a pragmatic reason. It won’t make a huge difference, but it might keep one or two of Trump’s worst qualified nominees out of the cabinet.