The Supreme Court has played an important role in almost every election in recent memory.
In 2016, it was well advertised that whoever was elected president would decide the future of the Supreme Court, given the vacancy left by the late-Justice Antonin Scalia. In 2018, the balance of the Supreme Court was yet again highlighted after the partisan fight in the Senate over the appointment of Brett Kavanaugh to replace the retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy.
Currently, there is a solid five-to-four conservative majority on the Supreme Court, with the two-most recent appointees (Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh) being both the young, conservative justices. Given the current make-up of the bench, it may seem like the Supreme Court won’t play as much of an important role as it did in the past, but this assumption is far from the truth.
While conservatives enjoy a steady majority on the bench, the future of the liberal minority seems to be more uncertain. Two of the four liberal justices on the Supreme Court (Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer) are over the age of 80, raising questions of how long both will be able to serve going into the future. With that being said, here are the four possible outcomes of the 2020 election and what they mean for the Supreme Court:
Scenario #1: President Trump wins reelection and Republicans hold the majority in the Senate.
Arguably the most likely outcome, President Trump is currently the favorite to win the presidency according to Forbes, along with a Republican majority in the Senate. In this scenario, Republicans would maintain the ability to fill any vacancies that occur on the Supreme Court with a more conservative justice at least until the midterm elections in 2022. Should a vacancy occur from the liberal minority, Republicans would be able to not only solidify but dominate the future of the Supreme Court with a 6-3 conservative majority.
Scenario #2: President Trump wins reelection but Democrats win a majority in the Senate.
While this outcome is far more unlikely than the first, it is important to note that Republicans would still maintain the edge over Democrats in terms of influence over the Supreme Court. Republicans would maintain their ability to nominate a judge to the Supreme Court although, they most likely won’t be able to nominate a clear conservative. Barring an unprecedented move from Democrats in which they obstruct the nomination of any nominee by President Trump for an entire term until 2022, Republicans could be able to push a more moderate judge through the Senate in the event of a vacancy on the bench. If this vacancy were to be from the liberal minority, it would actually shift the court slightly further to the right with a justice more willing to rule with conservatives on various issues. In the event of a vacancy from the conservative majority, the court would shift more-so towards the center, along the lines of where it was in 2015.
Scenario #3: The Democrat Nominee wins the election, but Republicans hold the majority in the Senate.
Arguably the second most likely outcome, the influence over the Supreme Court in this one would be similar to that of the second scenario, albeit with a Democrat nominating a judge to fill a vacancy on the bench. Although with this outcome, Republicans could still force the Democratic president to nominate a moderate judge in the event of a vacancy from the liberal minority, still shifting the court slightly to the right.
Scenario #4: The Democrat Nominee wins the election and Democrats win a majority in the Senate.
Arguably the most unlikely scenario, Democrats would exert the most influence over the Supreme Court following this result from the 2020 election. Not only would they be able to maintain their current minority on the bench, they may even be able to shift the court completely in the event of a vacancy from the conservative majority. In order for this to occur, however, two seats would have to open within two years which in and of itself is an unlikely occurrence.
Given these four possible outcomes of the 2020 election, Republicans clearly have the advantage over the Supreme Court going into the 2020 election. In spite of this, the once-in-a-generation possibility of a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, however small this possibility may be, is important enough to motivate conservatives to turnout for election day in November.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.