The main reason many voted for President Trump is about to be justified for the second time in 18 months. The president’s nomination and Senate confirmation of Justice Kennedy’s replacement will change the dynamic of the Supreme Court significantly. Let’s examine the Court’s current makeup and how this new justice will impact America.
America’s highest judicial body, the Supreme Court, consists of nine justices nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Presently, they are (above, front row, left to right) Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Anthony Kennedy, John Robert (Chief Justice), Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, (back row, left to right) Elena Kagan, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch.
Although justices and judges are supposed to be unbiased in their decisions based on the letter of the law and legal precedence, they are human with principles and values shaped by life experiences, education, and environment. Four of these justices, Robert, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch usually lean to the conservative view of sociopolitical issues. Four of the others, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor lean mostly to the liberal view. Justice Kennedy, a conservative nominated by Reagan, often favors the liberal view in decisions and has been labeled the “swing vote.” So, many Court decisions are 5-4 with Kennedy breaking the tie in favor of either a liberal or conservative ruling. Recently, he was the deciding vote in favor of gay marriage and abortion rights.
With Justice Kennedy’s resignation, President Trump’s choice will be a stronger leaning conservative. This should portend a 5-4 decision favoring the conservative world view on many more issues. If any of the justices are considered a swing voter in future rulings, it will probably be Justice Robert who is a stronger conservative than Justice Kennedy.
Then, there is considerable likelihood that Justice Ginsburg will resign voluntarily or due to poor health during President Trump’s term in the White House. She is 85 (Justice Kennedy was 81). She is the most staunch liberal on the Court. That would result in a conservative majority of 6-3, or 5-4 with a swing vote toward the liberal side. The president will nominate a relatively young justice. His nomination of Gorsuch seated the Court’s youngest justice at age 50. Therefore, 5 or 6 strong conservative justices should be on the bench for many years.
This is a tectonic shift from the liberal-leaning Supreme Court of the last few decades. It will be a reversing trend away from liberal rulings on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage, LGBT rights, prayer in schools, religious freedom, universal health care, immigration, etc. Legislation from the bench will be returned to its rightful place in the legislative branch. The Constitution now often viewed as an evolving living document will be reinterpreted by the Court as a firm foundational standard.
Because of this judicial shakeup, the liberals are apoplectic over this nomination. Many liberal leaders are calling for voters to deluge the Senate with insistence that they oppose any and all nominations from President Trump. Suddenly, Roe v. Wade has become the most important legal precedent in America. Look for the wildest confirmation process in the history of Supreme Court nominations. Fortunately, conservatives can thank former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Obama administration for declaring the “nuclear option” in a previous justice confirmation when it benefited liberals. This procedural option of requiring a simple majority of 51 votes rather than a super-majority of 60 votes is now the precedent for confirmations. It will also eliminate the filibuster.
The long-term positive impact of this administration’s second new justice (and perhaps a third new one soon) on the survival of America as a free capitalist republic is immeasurable. Thank God for the election of 2016 and pray for a continuing conservative White House and congressional majority.