While it seems like a story from another era, it was only a little over five years ago that an egomaniacal self-promoting misogynist by the name of Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Not even Trump could believe that he won the election when the race was called in his favor early in the morning after election day. After all, Trump’s big plan was to launch an eponymous news network built on the foundation of the popularity and notoriety gained during the campaign.
There was no rational reason to explain how a man who lies, sometimes just to keep in practice, with no real knowledge of governance or international dynamics could be elected. He was a man who was racist, sexist, homophobic and a denier of the environmental catastrophe that threatens every living creature on the planet.
Yet he was elected president instead of Hillary Clinton who was arguably one of the most well-equipped presidential candidate in modern American history. He was elected by a difference of 50,000 votes cast in four states – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin – and so he brought his promise to reconfigure the federal judiciary with him even though he know as much about the federal judiciary as he knew about how to run a successful casino.
But there were men and women, particularly the evangelical community and the Federalist Society knew everything about how to reconfigure the federal judiciary. They envisioned a judiciary that absolutely did not reflect the common view of the American people on issues like the importance of a strong federal government, abortion rights, gender equity, racial equity and the very real need to address environmental concerns.
In 2016 too many people who supported Bernie Sanders did not support Hillary Clinton because they felt (1) that Clinton had simply outmaneuvered Sanders by using the levers of the political process to her advantage (true, but that is not a breaking news story) and (2) that if Trump won it would not make a difference in the short term and his obvious incompetence would make it possible for Sanders to be the obvious candidate in 2020 – and too many, actually just enough Sandinistas stayed home and paved the way for the disastrous Trump presidency.
And we see how that worked out.
Trump may do a lot of dumb things. Trump may say a lot of dumb things. But it would be a mistake to believe that he is stupid.
He knew that he was elected in large part because neoconservatives in the Federalist Society and in the evangelical community believed that this liar would keep his promise to reconfigure the federal judiciary. And for once, and largely he could care less about the federal judiciary, he kept his promise.
In four years Trump appointed 226 conservative federal judges that will serve life terms. Trump appointed 54 federal appellate judges (Barack Obama appointed 55 in eight years). Trump also appointed three Supreme Court justices assuring a neoconservative majority on that court for at least a decade.
The Supreme Court has already proved with decisions – “shadow docket” and otherwise – that it is moving to the far, far right on issues like abortion, voting, rights and the environment. And they are just getting warmed up.
And earlier this week Judge Kathryn Mizelle, yet another Trump appointee, struck down the federal mask mandate on interstate travel putting not only the entire nation, but the entire world at risk. Judge Mizelle, a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, is a member of the Federalist Society and appointed by Trump when she was 33 (she is now 35) and whose husband was acting general counsel of the Department of Homeland Security during the Trump presidency.
The American Bar Association stated that she was unqualified for the position due to her lack of experience as a lawyer but that did not matter to Trump or his Republican lackeys in the Senate.
And now not only is the mask mandate in question – even as 500 Americans die from COVID every day – the authority of the Centers for Disease Control is now in question and could have a devastating impact on the public health apparatus for years to come.
And that is why elections matter.