No, President Donald Trump didn’t name a Fox News contributor or an internet conspiracy-monger to succeed the retiring Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court, as some of his opponents had speculated. (That was political hyperbole.)
Those opponents spend much time railing about how Trump is some kind of outlier who has shattered norms for the U.S. presidency — his time in office has been a bit unique, we must admit — but his selection of Brett Kavanaugh, a circuit judge on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, could’ve been made by any Republican president in the last two generations. It was a standard-issue selection from the party in power in Washington.
People are scouring Kavanaugh’s background, writings and opinions to find some snippet to either boost or sink his nomination — to find clues on how he might rule on specific issues facing the court.
We’ll leave the former to folks with more time and resources. We aren’t touching the latter because, as we’ve noted, we aren’t soothsayers and we’re already growing weary of the doomsayers and the folks who seem sure to the point of arrogance that he’ll vote with them.
Kavanaugh is a conservative — enough said.
He’s likely to vote as a conservative — as Kennedy did more often than not, despite his reputation as a “swing vote” and a consensus-finder based on where he landed in a few high-profile cases.
Those in the U.S. Senate (which must approve court nominations) who oppose that philosophy will empty out their metaphoric arsenals trying to defeat Kavanaugh’s nomination, even though without Republican defectors there’s no way for them to make that happen (thanks in part to rule changes instituted by Democrats when they controlled the Senate and tried to get their judges on the bench past GOP opposition).
They’re doing that for the same reason Republicans do it when the scenario is reversed. Conservatives may protest otherwise, but both sides want the Supreme Court to decide things that ideally should be left to the legislative process, if that process actually was functioning at the national level.
There’s no way to achieve consensus in legislative bodies that are so closely divided between people who, as we’ve often noted, have such irreconcilably different views of what the U.S. should be and stand for nearly a generation into the 21st century.
Until voters force that consensus — and we’re not optimistic; the present-day electorate is no more inclined to compromise than the representatives they send to Capitol Hill — people will keep looking to the Supreme Court to enact or strike down things that can’t get enacted or struck down in the political process.
That will ensure continued warfare over filling vacancies — and there’s the potential for more; four members of the court are past the traditional retirement age of 65 and another will get there next year — no matter who’s elected president in 2020.
The true believers on each side will be in their glory. Others who don’t obsess about this stuff may have to don Kevlar and tighten their seat belts a notch to escape the collateral shrapnel.