For months, the Republican Party has been rallying its base around the fight to prevent President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland from ever taking a seat at that lofty bench. Now, the Democratic Party can respond in kind.
Martin says Trump’s release of 11 names he’s considering for the Supreme Court vacancy opened by Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death adds a whole new dynamic to the presidential race.
“Republicans, over the past 30 years the years of the culture wars, have done a much better job rallying their voters around the issue of having, ‘their people,’ in judicial positions on the courts,” Martin says. But seeing a presidential candidate list his potential picks for a vacant Supreme Court position before he is elected is a first.
“Now, when Clinton says that Trump has named 11 people he will nominate, all of whom opposed Roe v Wade, and all of whom oppose all forms of gun control – now that’s a real threat. Because one of these people is not hypothetically going to be on the court, one of them is going to be nominated. How that plays out will be very fascinating to watch.”
Trump’s gamble, says Martin, is that his nomination list will do more to rally conservatives to his banner than it will to push independents to Clinton’s camp.
“It’s highly unusual to release the names of people you’re thinking about,” Martin says. “Nobody does that, but Trump’s trying to have it both ways. He says he doesn’t need to unite the party, but he makes moves like this that appear designed to unify.”
Martin asks, is Trump trying to lure conservatives looking for a more “ideologically pure” candidate atop the ticket? “This suggests he is trying to make some peace offerings or show some cards that show, ‘Hey, I am one of you and you can trust me and why don’t you go ahead and come onboard.’”
The last piece on the board of this game of courts is the current court itself, which declined to rule on a major case against Obamacare this week by sending the case back to lower courts.
“The court was effectively saying, ‘We need another member and you can’t continue to leave us understaffed,’ and that really tees up the nomination question as an election issue,” Martin says. “I highly doubt you’ll see Clinton offer names like Trump did, though, as that would mean not showing support for Garland.”
Martin is an SMU assistant professor of Communication Studies in the Meadows School of the Arts. She can discuss:
- economic messages in political campaigns
- presidential campaign strategy
- religious voters and evangelical social movements