Virtually every poll, pundit and prediction shows a massive, staggering loss for Donald Trump on November 8th. Republicans are also likely to lose both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Republican Party is increasingly at odds with Republican voters. Republican voters are increasingly dissatisfied with Republican leadership. A process begun long before this election cycle. But Republican voters are only one small piece of the problem. American public opinion as a whole has been moving away from the Republican Party platform. A more liberal America has been moving away from Republican positions on abortion, trade, gun control and marriage. Two-thirds of Americans view the Republican Party unfavorably. Republicans are losing the demographic and partisan battle.
The GOP is fighting for its political and popular survival. Numerous GOP analysts believe the Republican Party as currently constituted will soon cease to exist. It may well split in two, a center-right party which approximates the current GOP and an “alt-right” party which caters to those who express more extreme positions on issues such as immigration, trade and U.S. foreign policy. Some current Republican leaders have turned their attention and efforts away from Donald Trump and towards the states in an effort to retain control of the House and some semblance of GOP stability. But some feel it is already too late. The damage has been done, win or lose.
This is one reason why Republicans who had previously denounced Donald Trump are coming back. Donald Trump needs to win and will say anything in order to make that happen, even if it hurts Republicans down the ticket and in the long-term. So Republicans need him to win to rescue this election, even if they cannot reign him in and disagree with his proposed policies. Most importantly, Republicans need Donald Trump to win so they can control the Supreme Court.
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died in February the GOP lost a conservative stalwart who believed in a literal reading of the United States Constitution and argued in favor of those positions Republicans have traditionally held most dear. For the past 8 months Senate Republicans have refused to consider any Supreme Court nominee put forth by President Obama, their argument being that in final year of his presidency Obama has no right to appoint a new Justice. Popular opinion demands that appointment wait until a new president has taken office.
While a potentially noble, if misguided and untenable abdication of their duty to advise and consent, this is not the real reason for their refusal to hear nominees. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), in a recent radio interview in Philadelphia, clarified the Republican position on Supreme Court nominees saying, “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up. I promise you.”
It was later qualified by a spokesperson from McCain’s Senate office who said Senator McCain would review the record of any nominee put forth by Hillary Clinton, but she “has a clear record of supporting liberal judicial nominees”. In other words, Senate Republicans have no interest in approving the appointment of a liberal Supreme Court justice. Or, perhaps more likely, three liberal Supreme Court justices.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 83), Anthony Kennedy (80), and Stephen Breyer (78) could all decide to retire during a Clinton presidency. This means Hillary Clinton would be able to replace four out of nine justices, two out of four conservative justices, potentially altering the balance of the Court for decades. Hopes for conservative Court rulings would be dashed. Any future Republican-friendly changes to Roe v. Wade would similarly be scuttled. Republicans could lose no only the White House and Congress but also the potential for the Supreme Court to overturn liberal legislation.
For a Republican Party rapidly losing favor both within and without, an election which promises to decrease Republican power in Washington and much mending needing to be done in order to secure the future of the GOP, the Supreme Court may represent the last bastion of Republican power. There is no guarantee Donald Trump would appoint a conservative justice viewed favorably by Senate Republicans, but in their view they must believe he would, or at least is more likely to do so than Hillary Clinton.
Donald Trump must win so a conservative-leaning Supreme Court can stand.