Bob Ehrlich: Competing Revolutions - The Progressive Left vs. the Deplorables


There are two very different revolutions taking place in America today, but only one of them generates much media attention.

One is impossible to miss: the unrelenting campaign to remake American values and culture. This not-so-subtle revolution is daily instigated by the usual suspects: Hollywood celebrities, the mainstream media, college professors and administrators, and public-sector unions. An ever-vigilant social justice media police aggressively monitors the effort.

Sad to say that great strides have been made by these committed activists.  More on the substance of the movement below.

There is an equally impactful campaign afoot on the other side of the philosophical aisle, but this one is much more understated. It concerns the single most important issue that propelled candidate Trump into the presidency.

I refer of course to judicial selection — most particularly, but not exclusively, the selection of justices to the Supreme Court. Here, post-election polls revealed what few in the dominant media thought remotely possible: overwhelming numbers of evangelical voters turning out to support the thrice-married, former casino magnate, reality television show personality on the basis of judgeships alone.

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Indeed, few observers believed that Trump’s oft-repeated promise to appoint only “originalist” judges to the federal bench would have any impact, much less a material impact.

They were wrong.

Back to the not-so-quiet revolution — the one that not even Barack Obama could have imagined a mere four years ago. You read that right. Obama only thought he defined the left flank of the progressive movement in America. Events soon revealed that he too was wrong.

How wrong? Well, check out presidential aspirant Beto O’Rourke’s recent promise to repeal organized religion’s tax exemption whenever and wherever a denomination opposes same-sex marriage; or the specter of every Democratic contender promising to extend health care benefits to illegal aliens; or the progressive push to eliminate the Electoral College; or pack the Supreme Court; or end the natural gas revolution that is leading to American energy independence; or, most important, the sight of so many leading Democrats running toward, rather than away, from socialism.

Obama never dared to walk or even flirt with these once-unthinkable positions!

The problem, of course, is that so many of these extreme positions are dead on arrival come Election Day — especially in flyover America where all of those millions of undesirable deplorables tend to gather, live and vote.

Alas, this inconvenient fact of life has led some of the sharper progressive minds to look to the courts in order to impose new cultural values on all those good-for-nothing rednecks.

But what if those same courts became dominated by those who would seek to interpret the law rather than legislate it? That would be a BIG problem indeed — and one that could lead to all kinds of emotional upheaval (see, e.g., the Brett Kavanaugh hearings). All of which brings us back to the aforementioned quiet revolution.

For the American left, the earth began to move in the wake of Trump’s first two Supreme Court nominations — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Both are young and originalist in orientation; both hold “pro-life” views and both tend to vote with the Court’s conservative majority most of the time. Accordingly, progressive activists from coast to coast are at DEFCON 5.

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Less attention is paid to lower court appellate judges, but here too, the movement is very real and decidedly to the right. An early Trump administration decision to marginalize candidate ratings offered by the left-leaning American Bar Association in favor of vetting by the conservative Federalist Society made it crystal clear where this administration intended to go.

The numbers say it all. As of Oct. 15, 152 Article 2 judges have been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Of these, 43 have been appointed to U.S. Courts of Appeals and 105 to the District Courts.

Notably, the average age of Trump’s circuit court selections is 49 years old, younger than judges selected by the previous five presidents. A long-term majority of originalist jurists is now within reach, just what movement conservatives have long wanted and progressives have long dreaded.

For the latter, repeated losses at the ballot box and in the courts does not a revolution make. These folks are plenty unhappy about both developments. As a result, you can bet plenty more incidents of acting out will occur in the lead-up to November 2020.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.