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Trump’s Supreme Court: A Generation of Conservatism
This week, Donald Trump put out his list of people that he would consider for the Supreme Court. According to most accounts they are all strong conservatives that would appear to have an easy time passing through a Republican Senate. While Trump was able to calm some fears on the Right that he might try and nominate someone unqualified, everyone on the left should be scared, very scared.
One of the key components of Trump’s nominees was the relative youth of the justices. A Supreme Court justice can serve for life so if you appoint someone in the early 50’s they should be on the court for 30+ years. With the balance of power in the hands of whoever a President Trump picks the selection to replace Justice Scalia could have ramifications for decades to come. While I will not pretend to be an expert on the Justice’s that Trump is looking to nominate, it seems that pundits agree that they are all strong conservative choices more in line with Scalia then they would be with Justice Kennedy, a slightly right of center justice who is often the swing vote on the court.
This list is also important because there is a strong likelihood the next President will not only nominate a justice to replace Scalia, but will also get to replace Justice Breyer, Ginsberg and Kennedy. Within the next 8 years, two other justices will also turn 70. This means that a Republican President would be able to completely reshape the court into one of the most conservative courts in history. If you thought Citizens United was bad get ready. Gay Marriage outlawed, Abortions banned, equal rights gone, torture why not!
In the immediate future, a Trump nominee would have important cases before them right away. These would include a ruling on President Obama’s immigration orders, whether or not unions can require dues collection from public sector employees and whether or not states can set health standards that are so high they effectively ban abortions in the state. Within just the first few months, a new justice could overturn many important issues that the Obama administration has worked on for the last eight years.
What would a Hillary Court look like?
Would a Hillary court look different than Obama’s? If Clinton is to win, she will get to make the nomination very early in her term. A lot of what will happen with her nominees will depend on who controls the Senate. If the Democrats take back the Senate, look for a more liberal nominee. This will be her best shot to change the makeup of the court and she is not going to want to play it safe with a justice who may spend the next 8 years jumping from side to side on issues that are important to her. This nominee would probably be the ones that liberals were hoping Obama would nominate before he announced Merrick Garland. An interesting pick here could be if she decided to nominate the former constitutional law professor and outgoing President, Barack Obama. It would the ultimate F-you to the Senate to put Obama on the court, with a liberal majority to shoot down every lawsuit that Republicans bring before the court. While it is unlikely, one former President was named to the court after he left office.
If the Democrats don’t win back the Senate, Clinton will be in more of a bind. She will need to pick a moderate who can get through the Senate and there will be enourmous pressure on her to pick someone who is more conservative. If this is the case, she may take the easy way out and just stick with Garland. He will have spent 11 months being vetted and Clinton may be able to fast track his appointment to break up the gridlock of have a split court for nearly a year. He would definitely be a solid pick, but his age will limit his time on the court and will limit his legacy on the court. She could also decide to take a younger moderate. Obama was considering a few, although he must have thought that as a lame duck President the Senate would not approve someone who would sit on the court for decades to come.
The simple fact is that the country is at a great crossroads. The future of the country not only lies in the next President but in who they select for the Supreme Court. Will it be a staunch Conservative in the vein of Trump or will it be a moderate that is good for business? Will Clinton select a flaming liberal who will replace Ruth Bader Ginsberg as the left darling or will she be forced to select the next Kennedy who will spend the next decade jumping from side to side? The great thing about politics is we will find out in November.