Many Republicans are trying to persuade themselves to support Donald Trump. They start by admitting a problem they have with him: “I’m embarrassed that Trump attacked a Gold Star family … ” or “Yes, he’s confused about the nuclear triad…” And then they come to this conclusion: “But we have to support him because of the Supreme Court.”
As conservative law professors, we share the concern that a Hillary Clinton victory would halt decades of efforts to restore an originalist interpretation of the Constitution. Since Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February, the court has been divided between four very liberal justices and four conservatives (some more than others). Central constitutional concerns, including religious freedom, voting rights, property rights, the death penalty and gun control are up for grabs, possibly turning on the views of the next new justice.
Trump himself has been gloating over the leverage the situation sets up. “They have no choice,” he said on the stump in Virginia not long ago. “Even if you can’t stand Donald Trump, you think Donald Trump is the worst, you’re going to vote for me. You know why? Justices of the Supreme Court.”
But the Supreme Court is not enough. Our nation confronts a revanchist Russia; a bellicose, expansionist China; terrorism in Europe; and civil war in the Middle East — in short, a world reeling at the edge of chaos. The president’s first responsibilities are to maintain national security, advance our national interests in foreign affairs and provide direction for the military. As Alexander Hamilton observed, the framers of the Constitution vested the executive power in one person, the president, to ensure that the United States could conduct its foreign relations with “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch.”
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