The Judiciary

Neil Gorsuch ends the era of Supreme Court betrayals for Republicans

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After less than two weeks in office, President Trump has further cemented recalcitrant conservatives, even those from the island of Never Trump, by doing something that demonstrates character: He kept his promise on the most important presidential decision for conservatives.

In picking Judge Neil Gorsuch for the highest court in the land, the president fulfilled his unorthodox but politically creative promise to select a nominee from two lists pulled together with the imprimatur of President Reagan’s attorney general, the revered Ed Meese.

{mosads}Gorsuch is a brilliant selection. He’s only 49, but he looks older. He was confirmed by the Senate without any objections in 2006. He’s the author of opinions on current constitutional controversies, so he has a defined track record and well-formed philosophy. And, he enjoys all the prestigious distinctions of a sterling legal pedigree.

 

President Obama was the first U.S. president to have been a professor of constitutional law, and he governed as if he was still hanging out in the faculty lounge.

Obama was overturned more times by federal courts than any president in recent memory, and his track record at the Supreme Court was no better than those esteemed members of the bar who advertise on billboards. It took an ivy-league educated law professor to bring America the most grotesque array of constitutional legal crises in the last 100 years.

Make no mistake, it was Obama’s radicalism and his cavalier disregard for the rule of law that most energized the electorate in 2016. Hillary Clinton may have been a wobbly candidate, literally, but Barak Obama is the one who made Americans wonder if the Constitution and its words were still operable. 

The nation’s highest court used to be a taboo political issue. The left and right know they can change history if they can control the direction of the court, but the court itself is supposed to stand separate and apart from the whims of politics. However, since 1952, Republicans have won 10 out of 17 presidential elections: those victories have given Republican presidents substantially more picks to the court, especially since Jimmy Carter never had a turn.

Disgracefully, only about 50 percent of Republican picks have been genuine constitutionalists, whereas Democrats have never made a misstep.

In fact, Democrats often are able to pick thoroughbreds from the progressive left, who sail through their confirmations. Ruth Bader Ginsburg was at one time counsel to the ACLU, for instance; one can only imagine if a Republican president has chosen a counsel from the NRA.

There are many reasons for this disgraceful record, but it is just one of the many dynamics that fed the Republican desire in 2016 to try an outsider nominee for president.

Every time a conservative primary opponent questioned Trump’s fitness to be president because of the opening on the Supreme Court, conservative voters were reminded of the past promises of Republican presidents that resulted in Earl Warren, Harry Blackmun, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter and, most recently, Chief Justice John Roberts — a long yet incomplete list of Republican Supreme Court betrayals. 

So for the first time, it is not just Donald Trump who made a selection, but all those who voted for him because of the public list from which he promised to make his pick. It is populism in its most noble sense when voters have transparency into who will be on the court of last resort.

There is also a refreshing candor to how Trump approached the Supreme Court opening. He acknowledged that the pick mattered politically and he didn’t pretend that there is some hidden magic involved in the vetting process. Like a land developer with a problem with a neighborhood activist, he actually listened to what conservatives were worried about, and he made a deal.

We are already making better deals. Conservatives are tired of losing, especially when it comes to the nation’s highest court.

Neil Gorsuch is an historic pick because of how he was selected and because of the central focus of the court in the presidential campaign. But for conservatives who will work tirelessly for his confirmation, the hope is that when he puts on his robe, he will stop making history and begin to take the court back to simply fulfilling its role as the defender of the actual meaning of the of the Constitution. 

True victory will be a strong slate of justices who understand that the job is not to drive acceptance of every new social dynamic, but to instead simply do their duty with dignity and humility.

 

Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union and CPAC. He was the White House political director to former President George W. Bush.


The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

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