The next presidential vote will, yet again, be a vote for the SCOTUS. And it's not looking good for those with liberal ideals.

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There is no doubting that Donald Trump was one of the most successful presidents in US history—which is saying something for a man who won only one term and lost the public vote twice. By a lot.

The presidential vote is arguably a vote for Supreme Court nominations. When voting in US elections for either the Democrats or the Republicans, what you are really voting for is nominations to the Supreme Court of the United States. Politics is really a subset of morality extended from the personal, normative moral arguments of individual ethics to the societal level. As such, moral regulation is what defines what can be passed by a government and what, of their moral rules, can be challenged. SCOTUS is the arbitration of these rules.

Whatever direction that you want a country to go in morally, whatever view of abortion, separation of church and states, and so on you have, whatever constitutional position you take, the SCOTUS is what will either provide you with your desires or block you and the country from achieving them.

And Trump successfully nominated three Supreme Court Justices out of nine. That’s a third of the moral arbiters of the U.S. One man, one President, did that. Moreover, this was after the Republicans gamed the system and forced Obama, a lame-duck President at the time, into the corner, unable to nominate his own selection.

That was really a masterclass in strategy, and it pains me to say so. 

Ron DeSantis is looking to challenge the legally-embattled but base-popular Donald Trump to be the Republican presidential nominee. The Florida governor is “preparing to launch a campaign fueled by hard-right state legislation.” So far, he has come down hard on the teaching of LGBT issues and of race in US history (the critical race theory bogeyman), he has targeted trans people in public life, and has unsurprisingly been a fan of both loosening of gun control laws and restricting abortions to six weeks.

DeSantis recently spoke at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, a religious and conservative crowd. The Republican lawmaker declared, “I think if you look over the next two presidential terms, there is a good chance that you could be called upon to seek replacements for Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito and the issue with that is, you can’t really do better than those two.”

Supreme Court Justices serve for life, and the recent Republican additions are a good deal younger than their colleagues. If the Republicans were to win the next election, and perhaps even govern for two terms, it is likely that Justices would need replacing. Admittedly, Thomas and Alito, both staunchly right-wing, are in their seventies. But if a Republican administration ruled for those two terms, one could envisage older conservative judges be supplanted by younger equally conservative ones. This would solidify the Supreme Court for years to come.

And worse still, if any of the three liberal judges were to be replaced, you could easily imagine a Supreme Court with a 7-2 conservative advantage. This scary thought was what DeSantis shared with the crowd to rapturous applause: “So it is possible that in those eight years, we have the opportunity to fortify justices.… Alito and Thomas as well as actually make improvements with those others, and if you were able to do that, you would have a 7-2 conservative majority on the supreme court that would last a quarter century.”

DeSantis was buoyed enough to take aim at John Roberts, who is a conservative judge who just so happens to have sided with the liberals on some decisions. Reaching across the aisle is evidently against the Florida governor’s moral character.

The glimmer of good news for those who don’t sit further to the right than Tucker Carlson is that the general US public doesn’t generally advocate for such strong positions on many of these topics. Public polling has been at loggerheads with some of these more extreme policies.

Nonetheless, the coming election and the precarious nature of the Supreme Court, one that has already tumbled a good distance to perch on its present precipice, is a worry. Yet again, the election won’t really be about Biden vs Trump, or whoever the nominees end up being, but about the moral future of the United States. And the stakes are high.

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Jonathan MS Pearce

A TIPPLING PHILOSOPHER Jonathan MS Pearce is a philosopher, author, columnist, and public speaker with an interest in writing about almost anything, from skepticism to science, politics, and morality,...