In 1992, presidential candidate Bill Clinton seized on the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid,” to successfully defeat incumbent president George Herbert Walker Bush.
With the news this week that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire at the end of next month, that slogan might well be repurposed to get people to the polls in the midterm elections. Because voter turnout is going to dictate who controls the House and the Senate and control of those chambers will determine who will take Kennedy’s place.
In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to advance former President Barack Obama’s candidate for the court, Merrick Garland, and then subsequently changed the rules of the Senate so that Supreme Court justices could be approved with 50 votes. This led to the approval of President Trump’s nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
Kennedy, who was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan was a centrist. Gorsuch is no centrist. There’s no reason to believe that President Trump will seek a centrist to fill Kennedy’s seat and no reason to believe he will seek out a candidate more likely to balance the current court.
McConnell’s perfidy – along with Trump’s nominee -- led to a court that decided bakers can discriminate against customers on the basis of their sexual orientation. This court ruled this week that banning visitors to the United States based on their country of origin was legal, despite the president overtly and often stating that this was a Muslim ban; that he wanted to create a registry of Muslims in the country, and that we have a problem with Muslims coming into the country.
Dissenting Supreme Court Justice Sandra Sotomayer’s opinion on this case was blistering and likened this decision to the Korematsu decision that allowed internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. History was not kind to that decision and will not be kind to this week’s decision.
The last thing this court needs is another Trump nominee like Gorsuch. The only way to stymy an unacceptable nominee is to have the votes in the House and Senate to reject one.
That requires voter turnout. It’s the Supreme Court.