After a tumultuous four years in the White House, the Trump Presidency is likely coming to an end. Oddly enough, the best aspects of the Trump administration were the detailed policy matters that the President himself allowed others to take charge of. As Trump likely leaves office, conservatives should recognize the countless policy achievements his administration has produced.
Chief among those accomplishments is the hundreds of originalist judges President Trump has appointed to the bench.
When he became the presumptive Republican nominee in 2016, Donald Trump released a list of prospective Supreme Court nominees. Trump’s list was a compilation of legal minds in the mold of the recently passed Justice Scalia, which relieved grassroots conservative organizers who have long been concerned with potential judicial nominations.
Upon his inauguration, Trump began to deliver on his promise to the party that elected him. Since 2017, the Senate has confirmed approximately two-hundred Trump nominees to the federal district and appellate courts. More notably, with the recent confirmation of Justice Barrett, President Trump has filled a record of three Supreme Court vacancies in four short years.
The significance of this victory cannot be overstated. The issue of judicial nominations is arguably the starkest divide between progressive and conservative thinking. Progressive presidents see the judiciary as a means to the end of enacting their policy agenda. They nominate activists, better suited for the legislative branch, to the federal courts. For decades, these progressive judicial activists have acted like policymakers on the bench, twisting the law to meet their preferred outcomes.
The most significant example of progressive judicial activism is the doctrine of substantive Due Process. The doctrine authorizes the Supreme Court to act as a super-legislature, declaring that certain so-called rights are constitutionally protected under a vague notion of “zones of privacy” within the Bill of Rights.
Conservatives have a different approach. Rather than nominating judges who will advance their policy proposals, conservatives prefer judicial minds who put their personal preferences aside, in favor of a neutral interpretation of the law. Instead of pretending that the Constitution is a living document that means whatever we want it to, Republican-appointed judges interpret the Constitution impartially, based on its original meaning. As opposed to progressives, the conservative legal movement cares less about the outcome of a given legal ruling, instead, they focus on the process that leads to the decision.
In the eyes of conservatives who value the preservation of American institutions, the appointment of originalist judges is a top priority. Before 2017, President Obama was focused on appointing judges who would rule with ‘empathy,’ rather than simply abiding by the Constitution. In the past four years, with the help of the often demonized Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Trump administration has reversed that trend, reshaping the federal judiciary.
Four years later, twenty-four percent of federal judges are Trump-nominees and there is an originalist majority on the Supreme Court. McConnell has previously implied that judicial nominations will be at the center of his legacy as a majority leader. Trump’s legacy will be much more muddled, but his titanic impact on the judiciary will not soon be forgotten.
For at least the next two years, the Senate will thwart any effort from the Biden Administration to expand the Court, while presumably limiting the extremities of the new president’s judicial nominees. In the long-term, conservatives can trust that, regardless of who holds elected office in Washington, thanks to President Trump and McConnell, the Supreme Court will remain process-oriented and faithful to the Constitution.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.