Politics, Moderate

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Politics

The supreme battle before us

Kathleen Parker on

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WASHINGTON -- As the 2020 election comes into sharper focus, one issue that seems to animate both sides -- the Supreme Court -- is once again taking center stage.

In 2016, Republicans swept Donald Trump into office largely on the promise of nominating conservative-originalist justices. Exit polls showed that 26% of Republicans voted for Trump because of the high court, their faith perhaps rooted in a shortlist of potential nominees Trump had proffered during the campaign.

The list had caused some controversy because the staunchly conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation had helped compile it. But the outsourcing was hardly surprising for a future president who had no ideological anchor or moral compass, not to mention any familiarity with the judiciary or its constitutional underpinnings.

Trump continued to receive guidance after his election and ultimately nominated Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, the latter of whom Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley called "the most qualified nominee in our nation's history."

Now, a new shortlist has emerged, this time from a liberal group called Demand Justice. Apparently seeing the influence of the Federalist Society -- and the election that resulted -- the group has compiled its own suggested nominees to pressure Democratic candidates into releasing their own, thus giving primary voters a sense of their commitment to progressive principles. The banner leading its website direly declares that the Supreme Court "has been hijacked, democracy is at stake, and it's time for progressives to fight back."

 

Such hysterical claims seem misplaced in light of a new Marquette University Law School study, which found that the judiciary is the most trusted of the three branches of government -- by a large margin. The study also found that those who pay greater attention to current events have more confidence in the high court, as do those more familiar with the Supreme Court and its justices.

Not surprisingly, the poll also showed that highly partisan respondents see the court as either too liberal or too conservative. But between the extremes, Americans are comfortable with the court's more-or-less even makeup. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said the Supreme Court justices base their decisions on the law rather than politics. To that description, I would add "facts." The facts of a given case guide a judge's deliberations and conclusions.

The Marquette poll also asked whether the number of justices on the high court should be increased, as some Democratic candidates have suggested, obviously to outweigh the influence of the current conservative majority. Fifty-seven percent of respondents were opposed.

This past July, opposition to "court packing" was articulated by none other than progressive heroine Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. In an interview with NPR, she said that increasing the number of justices would be damaging to the court and the country.

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