The Reagan Coalition has been key to Republican victories for a generation. And although the issue of judges and the Supreme Court has been thought of as an issue for social conservatives, recent developments should now make it a top priority for the other major GOP constituencies. If effectively communicated, this issue may help fuel a Republican resurgence.
Ever since 1980, politicos speak of the three-legged stool of the Reagan Coalition: social conservatives, economic conservatives and national security conservatives. This coalition has been the key to Republican victories for more than a quarter-century. When the coalition is mobilized by an effective campaign, the GOP prevails. When it is dispirited or disorganized, the GOP fails.
The issue of judges, most especially the Supreme Court, has been the foremost issue for social conservatives for a generation. It has been the highest priority for the pro-life movement ever since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Lawsuits since 2003 involving gay marriage have made it the focal point on that issue as well. The courts have also been ground-zero since the 1960s on controversies involving faith and religion. And after the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, the courts might become the central arena over Second Amendment rights as well.
But recent Supreme Court developments should now make the courts a top issue for economic conservatives and national security conservatives as well, and could change the political equation.
In 2007, the Supreme Court handed down Massachusetts v. EPA, where some states were suing the federal government to force the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate all sources of carbon dioxide. The theory was greenhouse gases such as CO2 cause global warming and should be designated a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.
The Court stunned legal observers, turning all sorts of longstanding legal doctrines on their heads, and decided the suit was proper. It then ordered the EPA to decide whether CO2 and other greenhouse gases affect the environmental and, if so, to set up a regulatory scheme that will control every source of these gases in America—including every car. The EPA is still working to implement the Court’s order.
This decision, criticized by conservative legal scholars as an activist ruling, could cost the American economy hundreds of billions—and possibly over a trillion—dollars. The EPA case will impact countless businesses across the country, with devastating consequences.