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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Supreme Court Temptation

Making a nomination to the Supreme Court to fill the Scalia seat is easy, and it will permit Trump to control the news cycle. Trump will be tempted to make this his first substantial order of business, but it is a temptation to which the future president ought not succumb, even if he risks losing some political popularity while delaying the eventual nomination.

Why should Trump delay? Because to make this nomination his first order of business is to break faith with those who elected him. Those who elected him do not trust the federal courts, and they do not believe that a change in personnel will make it a source of succour for their problems.

Moreover, for Trump’s voters, this election was not about the past: it was not about abortion, affirmative action, gun rights, states rights, etc, etc. That past is dead. This election was about something else, about building a new and different future, and what those voters want are new Executive Branch policies and concrete proposed bills surrounding today’s one key issue: immigration and border control policies focusing exclusively on the interests of America’s citizens. It is that simple, and it was always that simple.

Once Trump issues some concrete executive orders and proposed bills, then he can turn to the lesser business of the Supreme Court of the United States and also to the interests of the academic elites, transnational bureaucrats, and other professional policy wonks (few of which supported him) who remain immersed in the world that is now gone.


Twitter: ( @SethBTillman ) 

Seth Barrett Tillman, The Supreme Court TemptationThe New Reform Club (Nov. 9, 2016, 8:59 AM), <>. 

Seth Barrett Tillman, The Undecideds, The New Reform Club (Nov. 7, 2016, 7:45 AM). [here]  


Tom Van Dyke said...

Beg to demur, Seth. With minimal tapdancing required--since the Democrats are already the party of atheism and abortion--the notoriously nonideological Trump managed to win 81% of the evangelical Protestant vote, as well as 54% of the swing Catholic vote.

The future of the Supreme Court’s ideological balance proved to be a critical factor for many Republican voters. In exit polls, about 1 in 5 voters said the Supreme Court appointments were “the most important factor” in their decision, and those voters favored Trump by a 57% to 40% margin, according to ABC News.

I submit it was Trump's [putative] fealty to what matters most to at least 15% of his voters--I'm one--that was an essential part of his coalition. We wouldn't have voted for Hillary, but many of us would have simply stayed home.

That said, I don't think he needs to move on the Scalia seat first off. The 4-4 "gridlock" works fine for me at the moment.

Seth Barrett Tillman said...


I am sure you are right -- that many people supported Trump for the reasons you say. But those people were always voting Republican. And they were not enough to put McCain or Romney over the top.

What put Trump over the top was: Immigration-and-Immigration-as-a-traditional-R-law-&-order issue.


Tom Van Dyke said...

Trying to suss out the results. McCain, Romney and Trump each scored 60M votes, plus or minus 1% or so. It was the Dem total that made the difference--Hillary lost 10M votes from Obama's 2008 total and 5M from 2012.

My one guess is that Trump will grab his idol Bill Clinton's playbook and "triangulate" his way through every issue. Like LBJ and Bill Clinton, Trump's first priority is popularity. Love, if you will...

Rich Rostrom said...

I beg to disagree. Control of the Supreme Court is of literally supreme importance. Filling Justice Scalia's seat with a sound constitutionalist conservative should be a priority.

It's something that can be done quickly.

It is of course not the only thing that can and should be done quickly; rescinding Obama's executive orders should happen on day 1. But getting the Court in line is very important. For one thing, if liberals in the lower courts issue a ruling, the present evenly split Court may leave it standing. (I say "may" because the liberal bloc does occasionally vote to overturn some egregious outrage, usually from the Ninth Circuit.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, the social conservatives, Christians and constitutional government types who voted for Trump are looking at the Supreme Court nomination as a major test of Trump's loyalty to them and his trustworthiness. He has to move and move well on the nomination or he risks big trouble. He needs to nominate somebody who will make Scalia look like a 1960's flower-power hippie. And the GOP in the Senate needs to get that nominee through to the bench. Trump's voters already don't trust the government. He can't afford to mess this up.