The successful confirmation of two conservative-leaning justices to the Supreme Court is a massive accomplishment for the Trump administration. Many conservatives who had their doubts about Trump going into the 2016 election had resolved to give him their vote on the premise that when it came down to the issues that matter most to them, Trump would be on their side. These conservatives were vindicated on October 6.
Now that Trump’s first nomination, Neil Gorsuch, has proven himself a dependable conservative voice on the Court in the wake of the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy with someone with a record like Kavanaugh is likely to solidify a 5-4 conservative majority on most issues.
Kennedy proved to be the swing vote on the bench over the course of his tenure. On several votes that split along ideological lines, his vote pushed the ruling one way or the other. Now that he has retired and a more conservative justice has filled that empty seat, the swing vote will shift to the right. According to the Martin-Quinn scores of each justice (a study that tries to discern their ideologies based on their voting habits), it would appear that the next closest to the center is Justice John Roberts, making him the probable swing vote on future cases. This is where the real victory lies for conservatives: the cases they care about will now likely be decided by Roberts instead of Kennedy.
Kavanaugh’s confirmation has already proven to have implications on the 2018 midterms. It’s easy to theorize how this development would mobilize voters: republicans will be proud of the work done by their senators in getting these picks sworn in, and democrats will want to vote people in that will prevent this from happening again, especially since the two most senior justices are both generally associated with the liberal side of the court (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is 85 and Stephen Breyer is 80).
According to a Pew Research survey last month, voter enthusiasm is at the highest point it’s been for any midterm in over two decades, and the most important issue to voters right now is Supreme Court appointments. Of all registered voters, 76 percent say appointments to the Court are important to the way they will vote in November, beating out even healthcare (75 percent) and the economy (74 percent).
So this landmark shift in the ideological balance of the Supreme Court has lit a fire under the American public. It has shaped the way voters are approaching the ballot box this fall, and the decisions made by this new Court will likely be under close scrutiny, thus shaping future elections. This new 5-4 conservative majority will be making big waves in our political discourse for years to come.
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