The announcement from Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the Senate's sole Black Republican member, that he would oppose the nomination of Thomas Farr to a federal district court seat in North Carolina has officially torpedoed the nomination. Without Scott (and Jeff Flake, who has said he will vote against all judicial nominees until a bill protecting the Mueller investigation is brought to a vote), Farr didn't have enough votes to be confirmed.
The reason Farr was a particularly controversial figure is that he was implicated in racist voter suppression efforts in North Carolina, dating all the way back to his time on the Jesse Helms campaign. I assume that, aside from that bit of historical pedigree, he is more or less identical to any other candidate the Trump administration might nominate for the seat.
It is interesting to me, then, that in all cases such as this the burning question is always "will these two or three Republican Senators vote no?" We're way past the possibility that the bulk of Republican Senators might in any way buck the Trump administration's dictates -- even in circumstances where the tangible impact of the defection is nothing. The man (or woman, but let's be realistic about probabilities here) who is nominated instead of Farr will no doubt be a conservative, FedSoc approved jurist whose pattern of voting on controversial cases will be almost impossible to distinguish from how Farr would have voted. When that jurist gets confirmed instead of Farr, there is no net loss for the conservative legal project.
And yet -- by all appearances, it is beyond the realm of possibility that more than a bare handful of Republicans would oppose Farr. Scott's defection did trigger a belated (and pointless) return back to undecided from Official Moderate Republican Susan Collins (surprising no one, when it looked like she'd be the decisive vote she announced she'd back Farr). One might think that -- especially after Scott sank the nomination anyway -- a cluster of, I don't know, 30 Republican Senators might announce that Farr's history of racist voter suppression made him unsuitable for the federal bench, bask in the praise the media would heap upon them for their independence, and then get ready to vote for the functionally-identical nominee Trump put forward instead. But no.
This, above all else, was my thought during the Kavanaugh hearing. Had Kavanaugh been defeated, the alternative would have been almost certainly "a judge whose predicted voting record on the bench would be substantively identical to Kavanaugh's in every respect, but who wasn't also maybe a sexual predator in his youth." Oh the sacrifices! But apparently it is one, since pretty much no Republican Senator has ever found this logic remotely compelling.
This is why I have no confidence in the GOP Senate's ability or interest in providing even a modicum of checks upon the Trump administration. Faced between the choice of a conservative nominee who is corrupt/racist/incompetent/criminal, and waiting another few weeks for a nominee who is just as conservative but doesn't have any of that baggage, the Republicans in the Senate have proven they'll choose Door #1 every single time.