Amid all the scandals, resignations, lies, and general perfidy characterizing the Trump administration, it’s easy to neglect some of the less-publicized stories providing a backdrop for the more salacious.
An issue not sexy enough for the mainstream media is the appointment of federal judges.
Article two, section two of the Constitution, delineating the powers of the president, states:
“He [the President of the United States] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate,…appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”
This means the president and the Senate are responsible for lifetime appointments of judges to preside over thousands of cases in federal courtrooms nationwide.
In simpler terms, it means Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are appointing judges amenable to their agenda; i.e., those straight out of the Federalist Society.
This is, of course, not new; all presidents have this power.
But if we take into consideration the staggering quantity of federal judges McConnell is approving, we realize Republicans have the power to perpetuate Trumpism for generations, regardless who occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Putting that into perspective, the second year of Barack Obama’s first term, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed 49, mostly due to Sen. McConnell’s refusal to act on nominees.
We all remember what happened with Merrick Garland.
McConnell left vacancies unfilled, biding his time for a Republican president.
Now he’s got one, and together they are ramming through judges with the understanding Democrats will be in the majority–and the White House–in the not-too-distant future.
“You know what my top priority is? It’s the judiciary. We intend to keep confirming as many as we possibly can as long as we can do it.”
A White House official told Politico:
“If anything there will be more of an appetite for judges and more of a focus on it without the House anymore. It will be one of the few affirmative things that could still be pushed.”
Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich wrote in a Fox News op-ed:
“If the Democrats had acquired a majority in the Senate, they could have blocked every person President Trump nominated for federal judgeships. This was the biggest achievement of Trump’s first two years, and now it is likely guaranteed to continue.”
Why should we care?
Because many of those judges espouse some pretty odious ideologies.
A couple couldn’t state if Brown v. Board of Education was appropriately decided.
One claimed abortion causes breast cancer, thereby implicitly accusing Planned Parenthood of murdering women.
Many are opposed to LGBTQ rights.
Some defend voter suppression laws.
At least one claimed poverty is “a mind-set,” and American society has become a society of “leeches.”
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hi) finds this too coincidental to be normal.
“Who gets on the federal courts for life is high-stakes. Just ask the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, who have spent decades and lots of money placing people who are on their ideological page on our federal courts. That over 80 percent of Trump’s nominees are members of the Federalist Society is no accident…And yet, only four percent of American lawyers are Federalist Society members. Court-packing is continuing apace. Just sitting here before us, saying we will follow the law, and follow Supreme Court precedent—well, that’s what they all say.”
Legal director for the Alliance for Justice, Daniel Goldberg, commented on the lasting impact this will have on the country long after Donald Trump is gone.
“Long after Donald Trump leaves the seat, his fingerprints will still be on our justice system—two, three, four decades from now.”
Carrie Severino, the chief counsel and policy director for the conservative Judicial Crisis Network, added:
“Executive orders don’t outlast the president, legislation can change, but these judgeships last a long time.”
As Special Council Robert Mueller’s investigation produces more indictments, and Democrats potentially pursue impeachment, the Trump presidency’s days are numbered.
But his judicial appointments will no doubt abate many of the progressive gains we have celebrated in the past and hamper future advancement.
We have seen, though, the power of grassroots activism achieve some pretty historic gains.
Demos means “the populace.”
It won’t be easy, but we will continue to preserve and defend democracy as we always have.
In fact, even harder.
Image credit: Public Domain Pictures