Merrick Garland and Sherrod Brown sitting in chairs looking at each other

President-Elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees are a basket of deplorables. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama is up for Attorney General even though he is well-known as being racist. Ben Carson, nominated to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is vehemently anti-intellectual despite his history as a successful neurosurgeon. Betsy DeVos has been selected as the next Education Secretary after advocating for shutting down public schools in favor of for-profit charter establishments. None of those individuals, as well as the rest of Trump’s picks, should be anywhere near positions of power. However, they have the right to a fair, unbiased confirmation process just like all other nominees.

Merrick Garland, President Obama’s final nominee for the Supreme Court, is yet to be given that right; Republicans have refused to schedule any hearings or votes, and it is likely they never will. The Democrats have been understandably incensed by their counterparts’ intransigence. Jon Tester accused them of failing to follow the Constitution, Chuck Schumer said that Garland should be given “fair consideration”, and Sherrod Brown likened Republicans to lazy diner employees. Every comment was fair and accurate. But more importantly, the whole episode gave the senate Democrats the political and moral high ground. They have been the grown-ups in the room. Until now.

Sherrod Brown became the first senator to come out and say he will vote against Jeff Sessions’ nomination. That was before any hearings had been held and before the vetting process had concluded. He was implicitly stating that he does not need a hearing to know he doesn’t want Sessions to be confirmed. To be fair, it is already obvious that he would be an abhorrent Attorney General but it was hypocritical for Brown to say so this early on. There is very little daylight between his comments and what Republicans said about Garland’s confirmation.

The hypocrisy doesn’t end with Senator Brown. Chris Coons wants to slow down the confirmation process because the nominees have “views outside the mainstream.” Claire McCaskill admitted “there may be some [obstructionism].” Dianne Feinstein regrettably warned “what goes around, comes around.” Each of those senators strongly disagreed with the treatment of Garland, treatment that is similar to what the president-elect’s nominees are now experiencing. In addition to the hypocrisy, the Democrats are coming across as sore losers. It is difficult to not hear “if we can’t have our president and cabinet secretaries, they can’t have theirs” each time they complain about Trump’s selections.

It will be easy to accept their objections once they are based on the responses to questionnaires and committee members’ interrogations. It will also be easy once the senators have shown the high-mindedness and decorum that have so sorely been lacking in recent years.

To defeat the long line of unqualified and unfortunate nominees, the Democrats must take the high road. That involves a number of steps:

1) Keep quiet until hearings have been held.

2) Request as much documentation and as many records as possible.

3) Ask deep, thoughtful, fair, and hard-hitting questions during the hearings.

4) Vote against them when the time comes.