The Supreme Court deal is done
The necessary and imperative reason for many white evangelicals and other conservative Republicans to vote for President Trump in 2016 was because of the Supreme Court. That reason is gone now.
Or it will be soon, if Republican Senators manage to avoid COVID-19 infections long enough to confirm Amy Coney Barrett's nomination. The hearings on her candidacy will begin on Monday and the subsequent vote will now be supported by multiple parties. Your confirmation can and likely will be given before election day. At this point, Trump's SCOTUS voters can and should fire him as quickly and mercilessly as he would fire them if they were no longer politically useful.
The Supreme Court vote for Trump was never a good reason to endorse him in the 2016 GOP primary, as any other candidate would have made a very similar SCOTUS nomination shortlist. But when Trump was the party's champion elected against Democrat Hillary Clinton, the certainty that the next president would occupy at least one seat (in place of the late Judge Antonin Scalia) made the Supreme Court, according to expert Hugh Hewitt, " Trump's Trump "on the #NeverTrumpers. "
A "very liberal SCOTUS means ... conservatism is done," argued Hewitt in a representative case for Trump. "A strong-willed liberal majority in the Supreme Court cannot survive. Every question, EVERY question, will end there, and the judgments of lawmakers will not matter." For example, SCOTUS voters, who were otherwise critical of Trump, described that they still base him on precisely this transaction logic: He would steer the Supreme Court in a better direction than Clinton, and that was the most important thing.
I was skeptical that Trump would deliver the kind of candidate that conservative SCOTUS voters wanted because his personal philosophy of constitutional interpretation - if we were to honor it with this label at all - has nothing to do with the originalism or textualism of a small government they prefer. But I was wrong. Trump seems to have paid attention to the Republican establishment here. He's received three nominations that are very gratifying for this part of his base: Justice Neil Gorsuch for those with a libertarian advantage, Justice Brett Kavanaugh for the executive authorities and national security hawks, and now Barrett for the socially conservative (in terms of the cultural stamp of approval) at least her actual bank balance sheet is more complex and shows a bourgeois libertarianism, which she seems to put between Kavanaugh and Gorsuch in this measure.
Once Barrett is confirmed, the transaction is complete. The SCOTUS voters got what they wanted (a Conservative majority of 6-3 in the Supreme Court) and Trump got what he wanted (the presidency). The deal is closed.
And why should SCOTUS voters support Trump again in 2020 in view of this fact? You don't owe him anything. They paid in full in 2016, and now he's kept his side of the bargain too. What else is there to say? You don't hang out with the car salesman after you sign the papers. You certainly won't pay him double the sticker price for delivering exactly what he promised. This is how a transaction works, and the Trump-SCOTUS voter transaction is over. If he is re-elected, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Barrett will no longer be upheld on the Supreme Court than they already will be.
If anything, Trump's second term could backfire on the goals of conservative SCOTUS voters. Judge Stephen Breyer, nominated in 1994 by then President Bill Clinton, is 82 years old and is considered the second strongest liberal in the court. If Breyer died in the next four years, a quiet President Trump could create a conservative 7-2 super majority. This may sound like another triumph to SCOTUS voters, but a fourth Trump nomination could do more harm than good.
The game would be intense. Trials and / or a serious loss of legitimacy for the Supreme Court would be all but inevitable. Democratic panic and partisan animation would escalate beyond their current heights. Centrist swing voters, alarmed by the sharp right turn of the most visible tribe of justice, could try to restore balance in Washington by handing both Congress houses over to Democrats in the medium term in 2022 and rejecting comparative moderates like this year's Democratic candidate Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential primary The dream of a 7-2 conservative court, alongside democratic control of Congress and the White House, could turn into the nightmare of a 9-7 liberal majority - the institutional version of Trump's radicalizing influence on the left.
So prudent temperance is more likely than greedy overreach to secure the impending victory, which Barrett's affirmation means. After getting what they wanted from him, turning down Trump's re-election could be the best strategic move conservative SCOTUS voters can take. They should be satisfied with the bird they have in hand - if they reach for more, they may find a viper in the bush.
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