As conservative groups make their closing arguments in the days before the election, one message stands out: pleas to elect Donald Trump president in order to sway the Supreme Court, and increasingly explicit promises to stop Hillary Clinton from doing the same if he loses.
Immediately after Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February, Republican senators and their allies circled the wagons, declaring that they would not let President Obama name the next justice, inventing a phony tradition that they said meant the Supreme Court seat must be held open for the next president to fill.
When Donald Trump became the party’s presidential nominee and his chances of winning looked dismal, they changed their story, promising that the obstruction would continue well into the presidency of Hillary Clinton were she to win. In recent weeks, a handful of GOP senators have explicitly stated that they will try to block any Clinton nominee to the court.
The Supreme Court has become the central argument for “establishment” conservative groups and Religious Right leaders attempting to justify their support for Trump. Recognizing this, Trump has all but signed over the courts to the conservative Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society, promising to pick any Supreme Court justices off a list that they have designed.
In the final days before the election, the Supreme Court has been central to the closing arguments of conservative groups as they attempt to get their supporters to the polls to support Trump and down-ballot Republicans.
The Heritage Foundation has been peppering its supporters with fundraising emails promising to work with Republican senators to “block any liberal nominee” named to the federal courts under the next president. Yesterday, the group went even further, telling reporters that it would support a blanket blockade of Clinton nominees to the Supreme Court, according to The Hill.
The Family Research Council is similarly placing its stock in the Supreme Court argument, releasing a web ad on Tuesday highlighting Supreme Court decisions such as Hobby Lobby and abortion and gun rights cases. “So when you make your decision this November, remember these decisions,” the ad says. In an email yesterday, the group asked its members to sign a pledge that they would vote, declaring that the “sanctity of life, Supreme Court Justices, religious liberty, and many other issues are on the line.” The group’s pastoral outreach division has been circulating sample sermons that talk about the importance of the Supreme Court.
Major single-issue organizations are also relying on the Supreme Court argument. The anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List wrote to its members this weekend that they “must push forward aggressively as we work to save unborn children from a Hillary Clinton presidency and a Senate that will rubber-stamp her pro-abortion Supreme Court justices.” In an email to members on Tuesday, Gun Owners of America warned that “if Democrats are able to use illegal voters to steal this election,” Clinton would appoint “a radical Supreme Court to overturn the Heller decision.”
Catholic Vote, a conservative group that was one of the few to distance itself from Trump after the release of a 2005 tape of the candidate boasting about sexual assault, has continued to push the Supreme Court message, writing in a fundraising email on Wednesday that the future of the court depends on the makeup of the Senate and on the ideology of the vice president:
LET’S NOT FORGET: In 6 days the future of the Supreme Court, hundreds of federal judges, Obamacare, religious freedom, taxpayer dollars for Planned Parenthood, the fate of the Little Sisters of the Poor, and so much more will be decided.
Looking at the fight for the Senate, the latest election projections suggest that a 50-50 Senate could be in our future.
And the Constitution gives the Vice President the power to cast a tie-breaking vote.
Can you imagine so-called “Catholic” Tim Kaine handing the Senate to the Democrats, forcing a rules change, and ushering in a new Supreme Court?
The Republican Party and the Religious Right have agreed to a marriage of convenience with Trump based largely on his promises about the courts. Is it any wonder that after spending months telling their base to hold their nose and vote for Trump because of the Supreme Court, conservative groups are now promising to obstruct court appointments at all costs even if Trump loses?