President Donald J. Trump has seated more circuit court judges in less than four years than President Barack Obama did during his eight year span. This is in large part because the Republicans have been taking advantage of rule changes to ram judges through despite opposition by Democrats. Those rule changes were heavily decried as unfair when enacted, and the Republicans are being hypocritical to use them rather than roll them back. It is for this reason that I firmly believe that, should Trump have any further opportunity to seat a Supreme Court Justice, the Republican Senate will validate said Justice no matter how close to the election date it might be; that would stand in direct opposition to their arguments just four years ago when they stymied Obama from seating a Justice during his final year in office.
…And I don’t really care about any of that.
Yes, partisans are packing the courts with judges who lean their way while they have the opportunity. This is not new. If you check on how many judges were appointed by Presidency, the Republican effort to fill the courts pales in comparison to that of Carter, who appointed 262 over the span of just four years (Trump stood at 190 as of December 31.) Trump’s efforts seem worse because the Republicans are being somewhat hypocritical and because, well, Trump.
The Republicans aren’t even being full hypocrites on this one, though. Retaliation on judge appointments is exactly what McConnell threatened would happen if Senator Reid enacted the “nuclear option” in 2013. Reid did, eliminating filibuster rules for judicial appointments. Part of being a negotiator – which is a primary function of all politicians – is following through on some, if not all, threats issued.
Does that excuse their reversal on Supreme Court decisions? No, but let’s be honest… first, while I firmly believe they would change their positions, most of them have not done so because they haven’t had the opportunity. A few have indicated, under questioning, that they would be open to the idea. Second, this is exactly the type of inconsistency that I expect from politicians, and it is not new, surprising, or in any way unique to a given party. Changing the interpretation of policy related to who is in control is normal.
The reason for so many judges being seated is fairly rational, too: retirement. In addition to the 262 seated by Carter (the record for any one-term President), another 402 were seated by Reagan (the record for any two-term President.) There are a lot of slots coming open.
Did the Republicans attempt to stop Obama from seating hundreds more positions? Yes. It’s called politics… and I was fine with it at the time, and I still am. I didn’t like many of the things the Democrat Congress did with George W. Bush, and I certainly griped about them, but I recognized that it wasn’t illegal, it was the natural result of elections, and that my job in the future, if I didn’t like the situation, was to vote and convince others to vote as well.
I recognize that just about everyone in the Republican Senate has been exposed as a slithering crapweasel, as they support Trump despite his attacks on every institution about which they ever claimed to care. I feel the temptation to attack everything they do, particularly when it is inconsistent and smacks of hypocrisy. I also know that most of these judges have spent more than a decade in the court system and have displayed philosophies and temperaments roughly in line with my views, and have done so long before Trump ever ran for President. There are going to be some appointments made which disgust me, elevating Trumpist nationalists over other contenders, but I expect those will be the exception rather than the rule.
I don’t find myself opposing the Republican actions on judges. If anything, they are acting in ways that I have historically supported and which I would be promoting if I still mistakenly trusted them. The Republican betrayal hasn’t made me support the Democrats or Democrat-leaning judges; it’s simply demonstrated that the Republicans aren’t worthy of my support either.
Giving me these judges? It’s not going to budge me one inch toward allowing any of them my votes, in November or on any November to come. But I will take their weak entreaty toward the principles they have abandoned, and I won’t condemn them for it.