Any time a worst-case scenario doesn’t come to pass, the comforting idea emerges that it wasn’t really in play after all.
That pattern is now unfolding, following a week during which the United States Supreme Court dealt a pair of what are almost certainly fatal blows to President Donald Trump’s bid to overturn the 2020 election results. But concluding that the justices would never have interfered on Trump’s behalf confuses what they suggested a willingness to do before the election with what the circumstances of this blowout election actually allowed them to do. And with conservatives firmly in control of the Court, their decision not to wade into a sloppy coup attempt says far more about their political savvy than their alleged principled independence.
The two decisions leave Trump with little recourse. On Tuesday, shortly after he beseeched the justices to “have the courage” to intercede, they turned away a Hail Mary lawsuit challenging the legitimacy of mail-in voting in the key swing state of Pennsylvania. The Court’s resolution of the matter came as a one-sentence order with no noted dissents.
Then, on Friday, the justices rejected an even more laughably absurd request from the state of Texas, which had asked the Court to bar Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—all of which were won by former Vice President Joe Biden—from using their results to appoint electors to the Electoral College. Trump himself sought to intervene in what he described as “the big one” and “perhaps the most important case in history,” and despite its multitude of factual and legal deficiencies, 126 Republican members of Congress and more than a dozen Republican state attorneys general gamely signed on in support.