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Dobbs Decision is a Crucial Reminder of How Much the 2016 Election Mattered

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

In the midst of celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade with Dobbs v. Jackson, it's worth examining how important the 2016 election was to the Court giving us the decision that it did. This is especially the case given that Chief Justice John Roberts only concurred in part with the decision. Thus, every vote truly mattered, including the three justices that then President Donald Trump nominated while in office. 


During his remarks on Friday, after the decision came down, even President Joe Biden acknowledged the role that Trump played when it comes to nominating three of the justices. 

Had Hillary Clinton been elected instead, or had the Senate not been under Republican control when Merrick Garland was nominated by President Barack Obama, the outcome almost certainly would have been very different. 

We say that elections matter, because they truly do. They especially did in 2016. Trump voters were motivated by the Supreme Court vacancy, while Clinton voters weren't. 

According to Statista, a majority, at 56 percent, of Trump voters said Supreme Court appointments were "the most important factor." Meanwhile, a majority of Clinton voters, at 55 percent, said it was "not a factor at all."

The Washington Post also highlighted such data. "More to the point, though, 26 percent of Trump voters told pollsters that Supreme Court nominees were the most important factor in their voting, compared with only 18 percent of Hillary Clinton voters who said the same," Philip Bump wrote in his analysis. 

It's not merely the voters who deserve credit, but then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as well. He held up Garland's nomination, which was made during an election year, until the next president took office to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Ultimately that was Trump, who nominated Neil Gorsuch in 2017.

Thanks to McConnell as majority leader, Trump made 245 judicial appointments. His 220 Article III federal judges in a four year period are second only to President Jimmy Carter's 260 Article III judges. 


In addition to holding Garland's nomination, McConnell defended allowing Justice Amy Coney Barrett's nomination to go through in an election year. The difference is that the White House and Senate were controlled by opposite political parties in 2016, but by the same party in 2020. 

Guy provided analysis on this topic in September 2020, pointing out that "by far the likeliest historical outcome was the one that befell Merrick Garland in 2016."

He also cited Dan McLaughlin's piece for National Review in August 2020, who wrote that "History Is on the Side of Republicans Filling a Supreme Court Vacancy in 2020."

McLaughlin wrote:

History supports Republicans filling the seat. Doing so would not be in any way inconsistent with Senate Republicans’ holding open the seat vacated by Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016. The reason is simple, and was explained by Mitch McConnell at the time. Historically, throughout American history, when their party controls the Senate, presidents get to fill Supreme Court vacancies at any time — even in a presidential election year, even in a lame-duck session after the election, even after defeat. Historically, when the opposite party controls the Senate, the Senate gets to block Supreme Court nominees sent up in a presidential election year, and hold the seat open for the winner. Both of those precedents are settled by experience as old as the republic. Republicans should not create a brand-new precedent to deviate from them.


In short: There have been ten vacancies resulting in a presidential election-year or post-election nomination when the president and Senate were from opposite parties. In six of the ten cases, a nomination was made before Election Day. Only one of those, Chief Justice Melville Fuller’s nomination by Grover Cleveland in 1888, was confirmed before the election. Four nominations were made in lame-duck sessions after the election; three of those were left open for the winner of the election...


Nineteen times between 1796 and 1968, presidents have sought to fill a Supreme Court vacancy in a presidential-election year while their party controlled the Senate. Ten of those nominations came before the election; nine of the ten were successful, the only failure being the bipartisan filibuster of the ethically challenged Abe Fortas as chief justice in 1968...


During a workshop at the 2022 National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) convention this weekend that Townhall attended, Jennifer Popik, the organization's director of federal legislation, was asked by an attendee about her thoughts on McConnell. 

Popik stressed McConnell's role as "a stalwart" when it comes to the pro-life cause, especially with his most significant contribution of getting Trump's judicial nominees confirmed, allowing pro-life laws to be upheld. She highlighted how McConnell also held firm during the difficult confirmation hearings, especially when it comes to Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Popik referred to such a role McConnell played as his "lasting impact" and his "legacy."

Trump himself responded to Fox News on Friday morning, where he credited how "God made the decision." He also stressed what the Dobbs decision actually does. "This brings everything back to the states where it has always belonged," he said.

He also issued his own statement from his Save America PAC that acknowledged his role.

Today’s decision, which is the biggest WIN for LIFE in a generation, along with other decisions that have been announced recently, were only made possible because I delivered everything as promised, including nominating and getting three highly respected and strong Constitutionalists confirmed to the United States Supreme Court," he pointed out. "It was my great honor to do so! I did not cave to the Radical Left Democrats, their partners in the Fake News Media, or the RINOs who are likewise the true, but silent, enemy of the people," the former president said about his legacy. "These major Victories prove that even though the Radical Left is doing everything in their power to destroy our Country, your Rights are being protected, the Country is being defended, and there is still hope and time to Save America! I will never stop fighting for the Great People of our Nation!"


It's worth reminding the Never Trumpers about Trump's role in the Court overturning Roe as well as his pro-life legacy, especially for those who claim to be pro-life. 

As our friends at Twitchy highlighted, many were ready and waiting to issue such a reminder to Never Trumper David French, who celebrated the decision and even tried to take credit. The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway was among those with the best comebacks.

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