Some Republicans to whom Donald Trump is the skunk at their garden party would have you elect him president nevertheless.
Mark Sanford is one. When last heard of, he was the governor of South Carolina, canoodling with a mistress in Argentina while his office pretended that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Now he’s a congressman, and he had an op-ed in The New York Times last week (Aug. 14) strongly criticizing Trump for refusing to release his tax returns.
Trump’s obstinacy “will have consequences,” Sanford said. It “would hurt transparency in our democratic process, and particularly in how voters evaluate the men and women vying to be our leaders.
“Whether he wins or loses, that is something our country cannot afford.”
But Sanford also hedged his bets.
“I am a conservative Republican who, though I have no stomach for his personal style and his penchant for regularly demeaning others, intends to support my party’s nominee because of the importance of filling the existing vacancy on the Supreme Court, and others that might open in the next four years,” he wrote.
There you have it. To Sanford, keeping Hillary Clinton from appointing new justices is worth letting everything else go to hell. The government, the country, maybe the world and certainly the court.
Trump might even nominate his conspicuous Florida cheerleader Pam Bondi.
Sanford isn’t the only Republican who has sold out for fear of a liberalized Supreme Court. That’s probably a factor with Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and John McCain too.
Independents and die-hard Hillary-hating Democrats need to pay attention. If they don’t vote for her, they could have themselves to blame for making the Supreme Court a right-wing rat hole for another generation.
Republicans want a court that would uphold their state-by-state voter suppression schemes, shut its eyes to maliciously partisan gerrymandering, and make it impossible rather than merely difficult to sue people like Trump for consumer fraud, environmental pollution and other white collar crimes.
The Citizens United atrocity would continue to leave Congress in the grip of the Koch brothers and their allied oligarchs.
Clinton vows to appoint justices who would repeal that monumentally bad Supreme Court decision.
Trump doesn’t make that promise. He does, however, assure the religious right that his justices would repeal Roe v. Wade.
Exacting such commitments from future judges is another of those developments the Founders didn’t anticipate. They had the idealistic, if naive, view that integrity and competence would govern who got appointed.
But we have to take the world as it is, and there’s no shortage of capable lawyers who have declared that Citizens United was wrongly decided. Four of the justices at the time said so too.
The court has a history of renouncing prior decisions as wrongly decided or simply no longer applicable. It trashed two precedents in Citizens United.
Although Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion more or less rationalized that full disclosure would restrain corporate election spending, that hasn’t happened. Dark money by the billions is sinking the ship of state.
And in South Dakota, the Kochtopus is fiercely fighting a ballot initiative that would require public disclosure of donors to advocacy campaigns, create a state ethics commission and provide public financing of political campaigns.
Fortunately, there are Republicans who disagree that the court is reason enough to sacrifice everything else.
John Yoo and Jeremy Rabkin, law professors in California, are two of them. Writing in the Los Angeles Times Aug. 14, they described the dangerous world we live in and warned that a Trump presidency “invites a cascade of global crises.”
Moreover, they argued, conservatives should not take Trump’s word that he would appoint suitable justices or that the Senate would confirm them.
“Even if Trump were to win in November, it is in the legislative and executive branches that conservatives will have to win their most important battles,” they wrote. “Does Trump look like the man to lead them?”
Yoo’s opposition is really noteworthy. He was the deputy attorney general in the George W. Bush administration who wrote the notorious memos condoning extreme methods of interrogating terrorism suspects, including waterboarding. That’s a form of torture that Trump is salivating to resume.
If even Yoo can’t stomach Trump, what does that tell us?
Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the newspaper now known as the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in suburban Asheville, North Carolina.