In a country where some of the best and brightest minds in the world claim domicile, our unfortunate choices for president have come down to a Democrat who seemingly developed temporary cerebral palsy with her finger over the delete button; a Libertarian that couldn’t make it out of the second round of a high school geography bee; a Green Party candidate that even Google struggles to identify; an Independent who seems to be running for Home-Teacher-in-Chief; and a Republican who, um, how much time do you have? Morning in America seems a distant memory.
The question isn’t who is best suited to occupy the Oval Office, but who should be cut first in this process of elimination. The unequivocal answer is Donald Trump.
At this point, justifying a vote for The Donald is akin to claiming that Obama is not a naturalized citizen—the issue that catapulted Trump into the political dialogue in the first place. Nonetheless, I have several soon-to-be-former friends who still engage in the fatuous exercise of defending the indefensible. The common thread in the argument put forth by Trump apologists begins and ends with the Supreme Court.
Sacrificing the executive branch for the judicial branch, however, is not only a bad trade but one that runs the risk of giving something up for nothing in return. It reminds me of that time in my youth I talked a neighbor into giving me a Michael Jordan card in exchange for Kelly Tripuka’s.
The political Holy Grail of many conservatives is overturning Roe v. Wade and ending abortion in this country. Having a Republican appoint Supreme Court Justices, the thinking goes, is critical to ensuring conservative jurisprudence is enshrined in law. Merely having an “R” next to one’s name, however, does little to ensure like-minded Justices don the black robe—particularly when that man is Donald Trump.
For starters, Donald Trump is Johnny-come-lately to the pro-life movement. Just as Donald Trump speculates that it isn’t coincidence that his multiple sexual assault accusers are coming forward on the eve of the election, it also isn’t coincidence that Trump’s conversion to the side of life coincided with his run for the Republican nomination (the author cautions readers against applying Trumpian logic at home). Trump has proven he is willing to say anything to get elected. The only real decipherable values he has are, in no particular order, himself, Donald and Trump. Any position beyond those three priorities lacks substance, if not sincerity.
Even staunch conservatives with an actual track record can’t guarantee dependable conservative appointments to the bench. One needs to look no further than Roe v. Wade itself. In the landmark decision that extended a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment and applied it to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, five of the seven justices voting with the majority were Republican appointees. Three were appointed by Nixon, who opposed abortion except for cases of rape and, disturbingly, interracial couples. Two were appointed by Eisenhower, whose presidency, in all fairness, predated the time when abortion was an integral part of political discourse. Of the two dissenting votes, one was appointed by Nixon and the other a JFK appointee. The vote was far from coming down along presidential party lines.
Such dereliction amongst Justices is not limited to Roe v. Wade. Ronald Reagan, who in conservative circles is only a beard and sandals away from being the Messiah himself, appointed Justices Kennedy and O’Connor. Both these Justices drew ire for not towing the conservative line often enough in cases involving abortion, race, religion and others. Both Justices were considered swing votes during times of their tenure and granted a majority to the Court’s liberal wing on more than one occasion.
Even Chief Justice Roberts, George W’s universally heralded appointee amongst conservatives, has proven to be a disappointment to conservatives. The Republican Party’s primary objective for years has been to repeal Obamacare. When the Court was determining the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act—specifically the mandate that everyone must have health insurance—Roberts was not only the swing vote in upholding the law but authored the majority opinion arguing the mandate was permissible under the power to tax. Three years later Roberts was given a mulligan on Obamacare but opted to double down in his support when the Court considered whether federal exchanges were permitted by the statute, leading the late Justice Scalia to opine that Roberts was performing “somersaults of statutory interpretation.” Justice Kennedy also joined the liberal voting bloc in upholding the law.
The business of Supreme Court appointees is already unpredictable. The only thing predictable about Donald Trump is his unpredictability. A marriage between the two is anyone’s guess. If you’re naïve enough to think electing the mercurial billionaire will change the Court’s trajectory for the better, perhaps you’re a prime candidate to blow your life’s savings on a degree at Trump University.