George E. Curry
In politics, 2015 was the year of insults for those seeking the Republican nomination for president. And Donald Trump was the undisputed Insulter-in-Chief.
Among his numerous lowlights:
- Trump insulted former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina’s appearance by saying: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
- In an apparent reference to Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly’s menstrual cycle, Trump said she had “blood coming out of her eyes, coming out of her – wherever.”
- Continuing his attack on women, Trump made a sexist reference to Hillary Clinton’s late return from a commercial break during which she had to use the bathroom. “I know where she went – it’s disgusting,” he said. “I don’t want to talk about it. No, it’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting.”
- Trump refused to describe Arizona Senator John McCain as a war hero. “He is not a war hero,” Trump said. “He is a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren’t captured, OK?”
- Trump re-tweeted an inaccurate post citing a non-existent San Francisco agency’s claim that 81 percent of Whites were killed in 2014 by Blacks. In fact, 82 percent of Whites were killed by other Whites.
- Trump even mocked a physical disability of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski, who has a chronic condition called arthrogryposis that limits the movement of his arms.
There are many more examples, including Trump’s bashing immigrants and Muslims as well as lying about the number of Syrian refugees President Obama wants to accept into the U.S.
We should usher in 2016 by resolving to shift the attention away from Trump’s insults to more substantive matters. And there is nothing more important or substantive than who will probably select more Supreme Court justices than any president in recent history.
On Inauguration Day a year from now, four of the court’s sitting justices will be between the ages of 78 and 84: Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy will be 80, and Stephen Breyer will be 78. That means they will be 82 to 88 years old when the new president’s first term ends. And if he or she is re-elected, the justices would be 86 to 92 at the end of the second term.
With many major decisions decided 5-4 by the conservative majority, the next president will determine how the court will tilt politically for generations to come.
Replacing Ginsburg and Breyer with another liberal won’t shift the court’s balance. However, replacing arch-conservative Scalia and/or Kennedy, a conservative who sometimes serves as the swing vote, would have a profound impact on the court’s rulings.
Replacing Ginsburg and/or Breyer with a conservative would have a monumental impact. All of the GOP candidates have pledged to appoint conservative justices.
Issues such as affirmative action, access to the ballot box, campaign spending, the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, and school desegregation are all issues the court has faced in recent years and are unlikely to go away in the next decade.
Despite all the lofty talk about judges being independent and impartial, numerous studies have shown that court appointees’ rulings generally mirror the political ideology of the president who made the appointment.
One of those studies is titled, “Supreme Court Justices’ Loyalty to the President” by Lee Epstein and Eric A. Posner. The authors stated, “A statistical analysis of voting by Supreme Court justices from 1937-2014 provides evidence of a ‘loyalty effect’ – justices more frequently vote for the government when the president who appointed them is in office than when subsequent presidents lead the government. This effect exists even when subsequent presidents are of the same party as the justices in question.”
Surprisingly, the “loyalty effect” applies to Democrats more than Republicans.
“This may be because Republican presidents are more ideologically committed than Democratic justices are, leaving less room for demonstrations of loyalty,” the authors concluded.
Over the years, presidents have appointed Supreme Court justices who voted contrary to their expectations, including Dwight D. Eisenhower’s appointment of Earl Warren and William Brennan; Richard Nixon’s selection of Harry Blackmun and Gerald Ford’s appointment of John Paul Stevens.
However, it was President George H.W. Bush nomination of David Souter to the high court in 1990 that set the stage for an ideological litmus test. In Souter, conservatives felt they had a safe vote on the court. Souter disappointed conservatives by generally voting with liberals on the court.
Chanting “no more Souters,” conservative think tanks and the Federalist Society, a network of conservative students, lawyers, professors and judges rallied to create an array of true conservatives who will remain faithful to their cause.
Too bad progressives have not matched or exceeded the fervor of the right wing. My New Year’s wish is that liberals will wake up before the 2016 election and make sure the Democratic nominee for president will be a person who unapologetically appoints progressives to the court.
Let’s ignore the inane musings of Donald Trump in 2016 and focus of what matters most in the next election – control of the United States Supreme Court.
George E. Curry is President and CEO of George Curry Media, LLC. He is the former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service (NNPA). He is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. Curry can be reached through his Web site, georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at twitter.com/currygeorge, George E. Curry Fan Page on Facebook, and Periscope. See previous columns at http://www.georgecurry.com/columns.