Democracy Gone Astray

Democracy, being a human construct, needs to be thought of as directionality rather than an object. As such, to understand it requires not so much a description of existing structures and/or other related phenomena but a declaration of intentionality.
This blog aims at creating labeled lists of published infringements of such intentionality, of points in time where democracy strays from its intended directionality. In addition to outright infringements, this blog also collects important contemporary information and/or discussions that impact our socio-political landscape.

All the posts here were published in the electronic media – main-stream as well as fringe, and maintain links to the original texts.

[NOTE: Due to changes I haven't caught on time in the blogging software, all of the 'Original Article' links were nullified between September 11, 2012 and December 11, 2012. My apologies.]

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Supreme Court Seat That Fueled Trump’s Win

Even though very few voters have ever heard of him, Neil Gor­such is one of the big reas­ons why Don­ald Trump won the White House and per­haps the biggest reas­on why so many Re­pub­lic­ans are muted when he now takes ac­tions they don’t fa­vor. Gor­such—or the prom­ise of someone like Gor­such—rep­res­ents so much more than one nom­in­ee. To many con­ser­vat­ives, he rep­res­ents a gen­er­a­tion of rul­ings fa­vor­able to their be­liefs.

The nom­in­a­tion un­veiled Tues­day night in a prime-time an­nounce­ment from the East Room is the reas­on so many Re­pub­lic­ans who be­lieve in free trade sup­por­ted an openly pro­tec­tion­ist can­did­ate, why so many evan­gel­ic­als who ad­voc­ate Bib­lic­al mor­al­ity backed a thrice-mar­ried can­did­ate who spoke openly of wo­man­iz­ing, and why so many Re­pub­lic­ans who nor­mally de­mand total fealty to con­ser­vat­ive or­tho­doxy tol­er­ated so many sharp breaks with their be­liefs.

If the 1992 cam­paign was “about the eco­nomy, stu­pid,” then the 2016 con­test, for mil­lions of con­ser­vat­ives, was all about the Su­preme Court. It is why, in hind­sight, it is clear that Wed­nes­day, May 18, and Fri­day, Sept. 23, were two of the most im­port­ant days in the 2016 pres­id­en­tial cam­paign. On May 18, Trump re­leased the names of 11 pos­sible nom­in­ees for the high court; on Sept. 23, he ad­ded 10 more names to the list. He prom­ised that any per­son he put for­ward to fill his first Su­preme Court va­cancy would come from that list.

It was what con­ser­vat­ives wanted to hear and it elim­in­ated, in their minds, their biggest qualm about vot­ing for a first-time can­did­ate who had been a Demo­crat and openly boas­ted of be­ing in fa­vor of abor­tion rights.

“The list of judges was really a stroke of polit­ic­al geni­us,” said Car­rie Severino, policy dir­ect­or of the Ju­di­cial Crisis Net­work and a former clerk for Justice Clar­ence Thomas. “There were so many people frightened by the pro­spect of Hil­lary Clin­ton nom­in­at­ing the next justice. But they didn’t know what to ex­pect from Don­ald Trump.”

At the time, the list was just one more un­ortho­dox cam­paign gam­bit from a most un­ortho­dox can­did­ate. He first prom­ised it dur­ing a rough meet­ing with Re­pub­lic­ans on Cap­it­ol Hill, win­ning some con­verts when he so­li­cited names from the law­makers. Then he re­ceived names from the staunchly con­ser­vat­ive Her­it­age Found­a­tion and the Fed­er­al­ist So­ci­ety.

“That,” Severino told Na­tion­al Journ­al on Tues­day, “was a turn­ing point in the cam­paign.”

Thomas Rath, a vet­er­an New Hamp­shire Re­pub­lic­an who sup­por­ted Ohio Gov. John Kasich in the primary there, said the Su­preme Court ended up provid­ing “jus­ti­fic­a­tion for many Re­pub­lic­ans vot­ing for Trump al­though they dis­agreed on a lot of oth­er points.”

Trump un­der­stood more in­stinct­ively than Hil­lary Clin­ton did that the Su­preme Court would mat­ter more in 2016 than in any pre­vi­ous cam­paign. No elec­tion in the 20th cen­tury and no elec­tion in the cur­rent cen­tury be­fore 2016 played out with a va­cancy on the Court and the ideo­lo­gic­al bal­ance at stake. While Clin­ton in­fre­quently men­tioned the Court, Trump turned to it re­peatedly in his stump speech. Over and over again, he warned that Clin­ton “could make, three, four, five ap­point­ments.”

When he ran in­to trouble, it was al­most al­ways the Court that he turned to. He did that in a par­tic­u­larly can­did way when his num­bers were crater­ing in late Ju­ly. “If you really like Don­ald Trump, that’s great. But if you don’t, you have to vote for me any­way,” he told a rally in Iowa. “You know why? Su­preme Court judges, Su­preme Court judges. Have no choice … sorry, sorry, sorry.”

It turns out, he was right. Many con­ser­vat­ives, in­deed, felt they had no choice. They looked at the va­cancy cre­ated by the death of con­ser­vat­ive icon Justice Ant­on­in Scalia in Feb­ru­ary. And they looked at the ac­tu­ar­ial tables and saw that three of the cur­rent justices will be in their 80s by the middle of the next pres­id­en­tial term in of­fice. “The pro­spect of Hil­lary Clin­ton pack­ing the Court with a fifth sol­id lib­er­al vote was truly hor­ri­fy­ing for many, many people,” said Severino.

That 2016 was an un­usu­al elec­tion in this re­gard was sup­por­ted by the exit polls. In 2008, NBC News found that only 7 per­cent of voters called the Su­preme Court the most im­port­ant factor for them. In 2016, that grew threefold to 22 per­cent. It mo­tiv­ated Trump voters more than Clin­ton voters, with 27 per­cent of Trump voters say­ing it was the most im­port­ant factor for them, com­pared to only 19 per­cent for Clin­ton. An­oth­er 48 per­cent of Trump voters said it was an im­port­ant factor, mean­ing that 75 per­cent of Trump voters thought the Court was either “an im­port­ant” or the “most im­port­ant” factor in their vote.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, the Pew Re­search Cen­ter found that the Court was a par­tic­u­larly mo­tiv­at­ing force for Trump’s strongest group of voters—the old­est. While only 45 per­cent of voters aged 18-29 saw ap­point­ments as “very im­port­ant,” 74 per­cent of voters 50 and older saw the Court that way.

Original Article
Author: George E. Condon Jr.

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