Juan Williams: Court's fate hangs in the balance

Juan Williams: Court's fate hangs in the balance
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Hats off to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense: Trump tries to quell Russia furor | GOP looks to reassure NATO | Mattis open to meeting Russian counterpart Senate weighs new Russia response amid Trump backlash House passes bipartisan bill to boost business investment MORE (R-Ky.).

His manipulation of Supreme Court nominations is proving to be a big winner for Republicans.

It is also a big loser for Americans who still believe the nation’s highest court should be guided by the law and not politics.

The Pew Research Center reports that the Supreme Court’s favorability rating with the public hit a 30-year low in 2015.

That was the year the court upheld ObamaCare and legalized same-sex marriage. After those decisions, there was a sharp drop in support among Republicans. Only 33 percent of Republicans held a favorable view of the court.

Now support for the court among Republicans — and independent voters who lean right — has shot up. More than 70 percent have a favorable view of the court.

What happened to cause Republicans to more than double their favorable rating for the court?

The answer is that Republicans began stacking the court with right-wing judges who are in lockstep opposition to ObamaCare and same sex marriage.

And now the high court is on the verge of abandoning all claims to offering a fair reading of the law. If Trump names another far-right judge, the court will be nothing more than a reliable rubber-stamp for the Republican Party’s conservative agenda.

McConnell began this partisan transformation by refusing to allow a Senate vote on President Obama’s final nominee to the court, Merrick GarlandMerrick Brian GarlandPoll: Americans more divided on Trump Supreme Court pick than any other since 1987 Don’t worry (too much) about Kavanaugh changing the Supreme Court Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick MORE, for nearly a year. He wanted to see if a Republican might win the White House. He won that bet.

Once Donald Trump won the White House in 2016, McConnell changed the Senate rules for considering Supreme Court nominees.

He did away with the need for 60 votes to end a filibuster against a high court nominee. Instead, McConnell allowed a simple majority, largely along partisan lines, to confirm the right-winger Neil Gorsuch for the court.

Gorsuch’s name was selected by the Trump White House from a list prepared by the conservative Federalist Society.

Now McConnell, the top Senate Republican, is shamelessly rushing a vote on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want to use 'adversary' to describe Russia Comey urges Americans to vote for Democrats in midterms Roby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism MORE’s nominee even though we are only four months from the midterm elections.

Hypocrisy? Yes, definitely.

Still, it is hard to argue with winning tactics.

But there are consequences to playing political hardball with the Supreme Court. The court’s standing as an independent, nonpartisan third branch of the federal government, is falling fast among Democrats.

Until now, a steady 60 percent of Democrats held a favorable view of the court and its integrity. But with the prospect of a lightning-fast confirmation process for another openly partisan right-wing nominee, the court is reduced to just another untrustworthy institution in American life.

When Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDems to propose legislation to prevent ICE from shackling pregnant women Rasmussen poll: Nearly three-quarters of Dems want 'fresh face' as nominee in 2020 Kamala Harris lands book deal MORE (D-Calif.) was asked about Trump’s upcoming nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, she said: “We’re looking at a destruction of the Constitution of the United States.”

Harris added, of Trump: “He’s been appointing ideologues, he’s been appointing people who have refused to agree that Brown v. Board of Education [the ruling that found racial segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional] is settled law.”

The California senator was referring to Wendy Vitter, one of Trump’s far-right nominees to the federal bench.

House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiRoby wins Alabama GOP runoff, overcoming blowback from Trump criticism Mellman: (Mis)interpreting elections Overnight Health Care: Trump officials score a win against Planned Parenthood | Idaho residents to vote on Medicaid expansion | PhRMA, insurers weigh in on Trump drug pricing plan MORE (D-Calif.) said that Kennedy’s resignation had created a situation where “President Trump and Senate Republicans now threaten to destroy a generation of progress.”

Even political moderates fear the court is becoming the property of one party. Steve Schmidt, who managed John McCainJohn Sidney McCainPence, Pompeo urged Trump to clarify Russia remarks: report GOP lawmaker renews call for Trump to release tax returns after Putin summit House conservatives criticize media, not Trump, for Putin furor MORE’s 2008 presidential campaign — but has now shed his GOP affiliation to protest Trump’s excesses — is calling on Democrats to do “everything” possible to stop a rush vote on Trump’s upcoming nominee.

“They stole a Supreme Court seat from the Democrats,” Schmidt said. “For the fabric of our democracy, Democrats should dig in hard here with everything they [can do] to block this nomination...until we see what happens in the midterm elections.”

Schmidt noted that Trump is a unique president. His disdain for the justice system makes the stakes of this nomination even higher.

After all, he claims he can pardon himself while he is constantly badmouthing law enforcement, including his own Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA and the special counsel investigating his campaign’s ties to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential contest.

Even before Kennedy’s retirement, the court’s conservative majority was testing public faith in the court’s impartiality.

Just this term, the court’s 5-4 conservative majority did away with 40 years of law to gut the financial base of public sector unions — strong financial backers of Democrats.

They also allowed more states to take names off of voting rolls without any evidence of voter fraud while preserving GOP-gerrymandered districts. And they approved the Trump travel ban despite his campaign trail rhetoric which, critics say, revealed an anti-Islam bias.

“It feels like for the next 30 years, America is going to change in a horrible direction. And in some ways, it feels like all hope is dead and nothing could bring it back,” said Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show.

With hopelessness on the horizon, it is time for people who treasure an independent Supreme Court to stand up, get to the polls and vote.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.