In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a cynical gambit: Instead of allowing President Barack Obama to fill a seat left open on the Supreme Court by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, he refused to even hold a hearing on Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland. The power of a president to appoint a new justice ― one who could secure or shift the court’s political tilt ― became a central issue for conservatives. And eventual Republican nominee Donald Trump dutifully vowed to do GOP legal groups’ and religious voters’ bidding by appointing a conservative justice should they back him.
It worked as a motivating factor for voters. One in five Trump voters said the Supreme Court was the “most important” issue in their decision, according to exit polling. Those religious conservatives then turned out to support Trump, a thrice-married playboy who boasts about sexually assaulting women and pays hush money to his extramarital lovers, because he promised them judicial nirvana. Once Trump became president, he delivered by appointing two conservative stalwarts in Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh in his first two years in office.
On Monday, he gave conservatives a third: Amy Coney Barrett, newly confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate just eight days before the election, to the seat vacated by the death of liberal icon Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The conservative legal movement has achieved its wildest dreams. Trump has now made three appointments to the Supreme Court, the most of any president since Ronald Reagan. The court now has a rock-solid 6-3 conservative majority. All six conservatives have been closely vetted by conservative legal movement leaders in an effort to prevent future ideological deviations. Most important, there are now enough conservatives on the court that even if one broke from orthodoxy, it wouldn’t matter.
Conservative activists are now free to press forward with the agenda they’ve pushed since the Reagan...