Conservatives Have Lost the Supreme-Court Excuse for Supporting Trump

If the talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt is right that the war for the judiciary is over and his side has won, then it’s also time for him to abandon his support for the president.

Jim Bourg / Reuters

The Supreme Court is the issue that many conservatives used to rationalize voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election.

The talk-radio host Hugh Hewitt is the quintessential example. He doesn’t approve of naked greed, bullying, trade wars, serial adultery, demeaning spats with Gold Star parents, insulting Mexican American jurists, or bragging about grabbing women by their genitals without their consent.

Still, he voted Trump in 2016.

“It’s the Supreme Court, Stupid,” declared the headline on the endorsement column that he wrote for the Washington Examiner. (That was published before the Access Hollywood tape, but after Trump’s lifetime of publicly documented cruelty and depravity.) “If Hillary Clinton wins, the Left gavels in a solid, lasting, almost certainly permanent majority on the Supreme Court,” he wrote. “I know what a very liberal SCOTUS means: conservatism is done. It cannot survive a strong-willed liberal majority on the Supreme Court. Every issue, EVERY issue, will end up there, and the legislatures’ judgments will matter not a bit.”

Now he is declaring victory. In Monday’s Washington Post, Hewitt wrote, “The confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh brings to the Supreme Court a fifth conservative, and the reconfigured court is about to raise the curtain on a new age. The ‘30 years war’ for the court, begun with the rejection of Robert H. Bork’s nomination, has been won.”

He credited the president:

The unlikeliest of people to work a revolution of modesty is President Trump, but that is what he has done. The battle to contain the court has been won. And a court modest about everything but the protection of individual liberties is and will remain Trump’s greatest achievement.

Given all of that, I have a question for Hewitt: If winning the decisive battle for the Supreme Court was the reason you held your nose and voted for Trump, if the 30-years war has now been won, and if Trump will not achieve anything greater going forward, will you start advocating for a less depraved alternative to lead the Republican Party in 2020, and pledge to withhold your vote if the GOP renominates Trump?

By your logic, the raison d’être for your support has disappeared. Trump’s marginal utility to conservatives is permanently diminished. The most powerful moral defense of voting for him despite his corrosive attributes no longer applies.

Shouldn’t this change everything for you? After all, it isn’t as though Trump is no longer an unapologetic bully, a serial liar, and a bad example to children. It isn’t as though the results of Robert Mueller’s investigation are going to vindicate Trump’s judgments about who to hire. It isn’t as though Trump is going to halt his extravagant praise of murderous autocrats, or his demagogic rallies where he induces attendees to indulge their most base instincts and then feeds off the ugly energy.

And you’ve obviously noticed the deliberate ways that he inflames ethnic tensions and tears the country apart to benefit himself politically.

In 2016, you were correct to feel, at the very least, so painfully conflicted by Trump’s candidacy as to publicly reverse course about your support several times. Everything that made you uncomfortable is still true, and the biggest factor that caused you to look past that discomfort is gone.

So my message to Hewitt and those who agreed with him in 2016 is this: Be among the first Republican partisans to demand that the GOP do much better in 2020, even if that stand is a lonely one. Doing so isn’t just the moral course—it is one that won’t cost control of the Supreme Court.

You need never vote for that nasty, disreputable man again.