For all the (well deserved) shots we take at establishment Republicans, we shouldn’t forget the favor they did the country this year. It took real political courage for Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, to block Obama’s Supreme Court pick from confirmation hearings. Early polls showed that they were destined to take a huge political hit. Still, they stuck by their decision. And when the election results came in, their gamble paid off.
Looking back now, it’s fair to wonder if Donald Trump would have won this election if it weren’t for Antonin Scalia’s death. That vacant conservative seat made this election about more than the next four years; it would immediately determine the ideological bent of the Supreme Court for the foreseeable future. It was one thing to condemn the country to another term of Obamanomics, quite another to shift the court left for the next 25 years. It may have been one of the deciding factors.
If so, Trump deserves credit for recognizing what he had to do to win over reluctant social conservatives. Instead of relying on platitudes and litmus tests, he released a list of 21 potential nominees and allowed skeptics to peruse that list and come to their own conclusions. He promised in September that his pick to replace Scalia would be one of the names on the list, thus taking a lot of the doubt out of the equation.
But not all doubt…
Because, of course, Trump could easily turn around and nominate anyone he wants. Merrick Garland, perhaps! No one seriously thinks that’s going to happen, but one conservative group is spending a half-million dollars to remind Trump of his Supreme Court promises.
“The American people want justices that are strong and independent to protect our Constitution and make sure its meaning is preserved,” the narrator says in a new ad from the Judicial Crisis Network. “And because of Donald Trump, the next Supreme Court justice will do just that.”
Ahem, isn’t that RIGHT, Mr. Trump?
JCN policy director Carrie Severino released a statement vowing to keep the pressure on the president-elect.
“Many general election voters cast their votes for Trump because they believed his promise that he will nominate Supreme Court justices who will fairly apply the law and not make it up, or impose a personal or political agenda from the bench,” Severino said. “The President-elect promised to make America great again — one of the best ways to do that is to make good on his promise to select judges who will carry on the legacy of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, judges who will honor and respect the Constitution.”
Trump has as much or more leeway to break his campaign promises as any politician, but this is one area where he can’t betray his voters. And until he gives us a reason to believe otherwise, we’ll assume that he won’t.