This is a really terrible time for conservatives to decide it’s more important to punish the Republican Party than to elect a principled president.
Some conservatives support Donald Trump in the hopes that he will burn down the GOP establishment and cause a more principled and pugnacious Republican Party to arise from its ashes. They are willing to forgo nominating a conservative in 2016 to obtain better outcomes in the future.
Conservatives should reevaluate this strategy, taking into consideration the fact that nominating Trump will likely ensure a non-originalist Supreme Court for decades to come.
The next president may nominate as many as four Supreme Court justices and determine the trajectory of the Court’s jurisprudence for a generation or longer. By the end of the next president’s first term, four of the current justices will be more than 80 years old, and six will be older than 70. Supreme Court justices serve lifetime appointments, and if recent trends continue, the new nominees will serve 30 years or longer.
In the early 1980s, conservatives launched a long-term effort to restore respect for the Constitution and mitigate some of the harm activist judges had done. That movement has made significant progress over the last 30 years. If the next president prioritizes that project, America could finally have a consistently originalist majority on the Supreme Court. This would create an opportunity for the Court at least to ameliorate some of its worst excesses—cases like Roe v. Wade.
If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, she will ensure the failure of that endeavor. This is obvious. What may be less obvious is that electing Trump will likely lead to the same outcome.
Donald Trump Supports Leftist Jurisprudence
As has been extensively chronicled, Trump is not a conservative. His views on the judiciary are no exception. Trump recently repeated liberal smears against Justice Scalia—painting him as a racist for questioning the efficacy of affirmative action.
Trump is also on the record supporting the Supreme Court’s Kelo decision “100 percent.” In Kelo, the Court greatly expanded the government’s authority to seize private property. In supporting Kelo, Trump sides with justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, Kennedy, and Breyer against justices Scalia, Thomas, Rehnquist, and O’Connor.
In general, Trump touts his ability to make deals and get along with everyone. This includes the likes of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and Chuck Schumer. That is precisely what conservatives want to avoid from Supreme Court nominees. A president who compromises with Senate Democrats on judicial nominees is far more likely to nominate a Justice Souter or Kennedy than a Justice Scalia or Thomas.
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