Throughout his presidential campaign, Donald Trump assured Religious Right voters that, whatever their feelings about him as an individual, he would give them the Supreme Court justice of their dreams. Just a few days ago, the president told David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network that evangelicals “will love my pick” and “will be represented very fairly.”
Anti-abortion activists have cited the potential of a Supreme Court populated with Trump nominees as a reason to push through extreme bills curtailing abortion rights. The anti-LGBTQ group National Organization for Marriage announced that they “have real hope that Obergefell can be reversed and marriage can be restored to our nation’s laws during the first Trump term” as a result of his pledge to appoint “justices in the mold of Antonin Scalia.”
While he has often been portrayed as a social moderate, Trump has consistently pledged to support the Religious Right’s policy agenda. Appointing a like-minded justice to the Supreme Court would be one of the most consequential ways he could advance the radical movement’s goals for decades in the future.
Court decisions have had a huge impact on issues like abortion rights, LGBTQ equality and gun safety, and Trump has vowed to move the courts far to the right on all of these issues.
He said during the campaign that Roe v. Wade would be “automatically” overturned if he got to shape the court to his liking, repeatedly vowing to nominate only “pro-life” judges who would make sure that Roe v. Wade gets “unpassed.”
When the Supreme Court struck down parts of a Texas anti-abortion law, Trump said the decision “would have been the opposite” if his judicial nominees were on the bench.
It is no wonder that anti-abortion activist Jeanne Mancini said that with Trump shaping the Supreme Court, “you just dream about what that would look like.”
Trump also chafed at the idea he would be a “pro-gay” Republican, saying that equality opponents could “trust me on traditional marriage” because of his opposition to the Obergefell ruling on same-sex marriage, which he called a “shocking” decision.
While he has since said that he believes the case to be “settled,” Religious Right activists are pleased that he has promised time and time again to nominate a justice in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, a vocal foe of LGBTQ equality.
Following Trump’s election, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel expressed hope that the courts would send the Obergefell ruling “in the same trash bin of history that Dred Scott found itself to be in when people began to wake up and have some common sense,” and Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage gushed that “judges who share Justice Scalia’s legal philosophy will inevitably vote to reverse the illegitimate, anti-constitutional ruling redefining marriage in the terrible Obergefell decision of 2015.”
Trump won a strong endorsement from the National Rifle Association, telling the gun group’s magazine that he would “appoint judges who will preserve our Second Amendment rights,” while warning on the stump that Hillary Clinton would destroy the Second Amendment.
NRA lobbyist Todd Rathner told Mother Jones that Trump’s Supreme Court pledge was key to locking down the group’s support:
The bottom line is that this whole election for gun owners in general was all about one thing: the Supreme Court. All of these other things, these legislative issues, they come and go in terms of what administration and what legislative makeup you have at the time. But the effect that the Supreme Court can have on the Second Amendment is generational.
On top of these vows, Trump promised to pick his first Supreme Court nominee from two lists of judges released by his campaign—all of whom are conservatives hand-picked by two conservative legal groups.
Trump’s campaign outsourced the lists’ creation to two prominent right-wing groups, the Federalist Society, an association of conservative legal specialists, and the Heritage Foundation, the think tank led by former Sen. Jim DeMint that specializes in everything from anti-abortion politics to voter fraud conspiracy theories.
“We’re going to have great judges, conservative, all picked by the Federalist Society,” Trump told the ultraconservative outlet Breitbart News.
If Trump follows through on his promise to pick a judicial nominee from this shortlist, no one will be rejoicing more than the Religious Right, which took a big gamble on Trump and is now set to reap its reward.