If there’s one Republican who could be convinced that filling the sudden Supreme Court vacancy is a bad idea, it’s President Donald Trump.
There’s no question that the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the trailblazing liberal justice who died Friday at age 87, gives the GOP an opportunity that appears too good to pass up. By replacing Ginsburg with a conservative jurist, Republicans would cement a durable right-wing majority on the high court, one that could deal crippling blows to the left on issues ranging from gun laws to affirmative action to abortion rights. It would seem a no-brainer to any conservative ideologue: With Trump trailing in the polls, and fewer than seven weeks until Election Day, Republicans should act immediately to lock down one branch of the federal government.
But Trump is not a conservative ideologue. He’s an opportunist. The president cares about court appointments primarily because of the political capital they accrue with his base. A relative newcomer to the judicial wars, Trump once recalled to me his astonishment upon realizing how some voters—particularly religious conservatives—prioritized judges above all else when casting their ballots.
“I had no idea how important Supreme Court judges were to a voter. No idea,” Trump told me in an interview last year. Recalling how his numbers lagged with certain Republicans after securing the GOP nomination, he added, “I was getting really hurt, because they were afraid I was going to pick maybe liberal judges.” [Continue reading…]