Sunday, October 9, 2016

Advantages for Conservatives of a Clinton Victory

For conservatives, this is a sad election any way it turns out, but there are advantages as well as disadvantages in every situation.  I haven't gotten the sense that either major candidate has a big advantage to this point, but it seems that the edge is to Clinton.  If that happens and we do find ourselves with a third consecutive Democratic win in a presidential election, obviously that wouldn't be good for conservatives on the whole.  On the other hand, a Trump win might be even worse, so let's consider the possible advantages that might accrue to conservatives from a Clinton victory.

The one thing that everyone is concerned about is the Supreme Court.  It is almost inconceivable that Hillary Clinton would not appoint a very liberal justice to fill Scalia's spot, and there may be two or more retirements in the next four years as well.  The Supreme Court, which has been pretty tightly balanced for years now, would become (barring unprecedented rejections on the part of the Senate) dominated by liberals.  There could be a bright spot even in that disaster, however, and it could happen in one of two ways.  One is that the liberal justices, not wanting to be seen as dictating court policy over the objections of their conservative colleagues, might moderate their own opinions.  I think this is more likely to happen on less important cases, but sometimes cases that appear minor at the time take on major significance later.  The other possibility is that Congress (presuming it remains Republican) might finally react against an assertive Supreme Court and initiate legislation to rein it in.  It is unlikely, but I could imagine its happening, especially if the court made a few reckless rulings that were both out of touch with majority sensibilities and without clear Constitutional backing.  I'm not really sure what "reining it in" would look like.  I have thought of setting up a possible Congressional-Presidential override of a Supreme Court decision when a supermajority agrees; setting up some other body to review Supreme Court decisions; or appointing more justices.  The last seems the least likely to help, but the most likely to pass.  At least it would change the dynamic of Supreme Court appointments so that there was less riding on each one.  A single justice who sits for an unusually long time or rules in an unorthodox way can swing the court's decisions dramatically, and with only 9 members, every appointment is potentially crucial.

It is almost always the case that a Presidential election brings success in Congressional elections to the winning party, and I don't expect that to change.  (In fact, it is possible that Trump could break the trend by winning the election but standing so far from other Republicans that they actually lose seats.)  Unless it is a landslide, however, the mid-term elections might well undo the results of 2016 in Congress and go even further in the other direction.

The best thing that seems likely to come of this awful presidential campaign is that the next Republican nominee would be far stronger.  I would think that Ted Cruz has positioned himself awfully well as both the last man standing before Trump sewed up the nomination and a person that showed he was willing to stand up to Trump at the convention.  His endorsement a few weeks ago seemed like it might be a great move:  he had shown his independence, but ultimately he backed Trump like a loyal party member.  But after the video's release, now it is looking like Cruz's timing could not have been worse.  If he had not endorsed Trump, he could say, "I told you so!"  Now if he reverts to opposing him, he will just look inconsistent.

Regardless of whether the next nominee is Cruz or someone else, I think the Republicans will probably choose a strong party member (I expect them to change their rules to prevent another fiasco like this year).  I also think that Democrats will be in an especially weak position in 2020, although  that remains to be seen.

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