The Corner

Law & the Courts

Updating My Priors

Justice Neil Gorsuch in his chambers at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., September 13, 2019 (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

One of the reasons I declined to support Trump’s election in 2016 was my belief that he didn’t keep his promises. Even where he promised an injection of nationalist views I found welcome, I didn’t trust him.

Two years ago, I took stock of my predictions. As predicted, Trump wasn’t on track to build his promised wall. And he still isn’t. He’d also failed to interest Congress in any sensible or durable reform of America’s immigration system. He had in fact shown an absence of mind on foreign policy, and he still does.

But with Trump’s having seen the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh over the line, I felt he had surprised me and that I needed to re-evaluate going into 2020.

Trump’s conversion to the pro-life cause and judicial conservatism is late, and unconvincing. But his attempts to earn that trust and vindicate those who put their faith in him with his actions are commendable. It’s hard to imagine any of his Republican primary opponents choosing better justices.

And I concluded:

If the only reason you didn’t vote for him in 2016 was because you believed people like me who said that he wouldn’t keep his promises on matters like this, you need to think again ahead of 2020. I will.

Well, after the Bostock ruling of Neil Gorsuch, I’ve thought even more.

Gorsuch argued that forbidding sex discrimination in 1964 also forbade discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity as some of us understand them in 2020. Watching him maneuver through the logical loop-de-loops was like watching the pants slowly fall off a man who is lost in his surprising decision to dance the Macarena at your wedding. Clearly he’s having fun, but your view of him is unalterably changed by the knowledge that you can never fully trust this person not to embarrass himself or others in public again.

This outcome has unalterably changed for the worse my view of the Federalist Society and its lists, and lowered my view of the value of voting for Republicans at the federal level generally, and for Trump specifically.

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