Wire service Reuters has apparently discovered two things.
First, Donald Trump might win a second term as president in 2020. Second, two of the liberal justices on the Supreme Court are like, really old.
The combination of those two things seems to have Reuters a little panicky.
In fact, one could almost detect a bit of nervousness over what might happen before next year’s election.
An article published Tuesday begins on an ominous note, saying that “the question of whether President Donald Trump will get to make yet another U.S. Supreme Court appointment before the 2020 election lingers as the nine justices prepare to begin their new term next week.”
Lawrence Hurley wrote that “Trump, who took office in 2017 and is seeking re-election next year, already has appointed two justices — conservatives Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch — who have pushed the court further to the right.”
Yes, “further” to the right. Apparently, a court which decided that forcing people to buy health insurance or pay a fine to the government fell under the aegis of the government’s right to tax was already pretty darn far to the right, if one is to parse this in a certain way.
But never mind, because there’s plenty of other fun stuff to dissect here.
“The court has a 5-4 conservative majority, and two of the four liberal justices are over 80 years old, including Stephen Breyer, who turned 81 last month. Ginsburg, a justice since 1993, underwent radiation therapy in August to treat a cancerous tumor on her pancreas after having two cancerous nodules in her left lung removed last December,” Hurley wrote.
“The stakes could not be higher for the Supreme Court.”
That’s because, of course, Republicans control the Senate and there’s no filibuster power over judicial nominations anymore (thanks, Harry Reid!).
If Trump wins re-election, that would mean Democrats would have to capture four seats in the upper chamber to block a nomination — an unlikely scenario given the map and the potential for coattails if the president is re-elected.
Furthermore, if the vacancy happens before November 2020, “Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is well placed to push through another Trump Supreme Court appointment,” according to Reuters.
And then comes the frightening scenario, at least for Democrats.
“If Trump, running for re-election, were to win a second four-year term next year, he potentially would be able to replace both Ginsburg and Breyer, leaving the court with a rock-solid 7-2 conservative majority, possibly for decades to come,” Hurley wrote.
“That could mean a rightward shift on numerous matters including abortion restrictions, expanding gun rights, blunting the advance of LGBT rights, maintaining the death penalty and bolstering the interests of corporations.”
Objective journalism from Reuters.
And here I thought wire services were mostly supposed to provide Joe Friday-ish “just the facts, ma’am” reportage. But no, we get the horrifying prospect of the Supreme Court if there were a “rock-solid 7-2 conservative majority.”
This would apparently lead to an America where the death penalty would be maintained (I thought the constitutionality of capital punishment had been rather decisively ruled upon by a court significantly more liberal than this one, but that’s apparently news to Reuters), LGBT people would have their rights “blunted,” the constitutional right to keep and bear arms would be maintained and those dastardly corporations would have their interests bolstered.
The bias doesn’t end there; in a section about Justice Ginsburg’s health scares, Hurley called her “a pioneering women’s rights lawyer before becoming a justice,” who “has become something of an icon to American liberals.”
Well, whatever. This certainly isn’t the first piece of incredibly subjective objectivity I’ve come across, either in my lifetime or before breakfast today.
Beyond the tonal issues with the piece, there’s an underlying truth here: Yes, liberals should be worried because the courts are going to be one reason conservative and independent voters turn out for Trump.
Trump isn’t perfect. You’ve probably noticed this already For some, these imperfections actually make the president more appealing.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have people otherwise inclined toward Trump’s politics who aren’t enamored of the person who embodies them.
Either way, one thing that I hope both of those groups (and everyone in between) can appreciate is the fact that the president has made solid judicial picks, not just at the Supreme Court level but at lower court levels, too.
The picks aren’t just better than what we would have gotten if Hillary Clinton was president; Trump’s picks for the federal bench thus far are the best argument for his re-election that I can think of — particularly given the leftward turn so many Democratic candidates for 2020 are taking.
That argument gets even stronger when you consider the outsized power the judiciary holds.
Hurley is right: What a president can do will affect the political landscape for years to come.
The 2020 election could decide whether we have seven judges on the bench who respect the Constitution as written or whether we have more justices who view the 14th Amendment (among other things) as a utilitarian escape clause by which to enact liberal policy from the bench.
Think that’s not a big deal in terms of votes?
I’m sure it got more than a few reticent Republicans and conservative-leaning independents to cosign for Trump in the 2016 election.
Given the possibility of a 7-2 conservative majority, it’s hard to believe they’re going to switch their vote in 2020.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.