Republicans Gerrymandered Supreme Court as Well
July 13, 2018

The Republicans not only have gerrymandered legislative districts, but, in a sense, they have gerrymandered the Supreme Court as well. The last chief justice appointed by a Democrat who was confirmed was Fred Vinson, appointed by President Harry Truman in 1946—72 years ago.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower appointed Earl Warren as chief justice in 1953, and when Warren tried to retire in June 1968 and Democratic President Lyndon Johnson nominated Abe Fortas as his successor, the Republicans in the Senate filibustered the appointment until Johnson left office and Republican Richard Nixon could fill the seat with Warren Burger. Republican Burger held on until 1986, when Ronald Reagan appointed William Rehnquist as Chief Justice.

Democrat Al Gore received the most votes in the 2000 presidential election, but was not allowed to take office thanks to a ruling by the Republicans on the Supreme Court that stopped the vote recount in Florida that would have given him the election. Gore presumably would have still been president in 2005 when Rehnquist died and the Democrat would have appointed a new chief justice, but Gore was not president. Republican George W. Bush was, and he appointed John Roberts as the new chief.

The Democrats also should have appointed a couple of more associate justices on the Supreme Court, as when Antonin Scalia died in 2016, Democratic President Barack Obama tried to appoint Merrick Garland to the seat. But Senate Majority Leader and Republican Mitch McConnell made up a new rule that a Supreme Court justice cannot be appointed in an election year, even though Reagan appointee Anthony Kennedy took his seat in the election year of 1988.

The seat Kennedy is retiring from would have been another Democratic appointment had Hillary Clinton, who received nearly three million more votes in the 2016 election than Donald Trump, taken office, but it is now Trump who will appoint Kennedy’s successor, just as he was allowed to appoint Scalia’s successor with Neil Gorsuch. And even though this is an election year, the McConnell rule has quickly and conveniently been forgotten by Republicans.