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April 15, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Last week, conservatives laughed and rejoiced at a particularly-dramatic headline in The Washington Post: “Sitting on a throne of skulls, Mitch McConnell confirms his 8,999th judge.” Social media was full of posts savoring the liberal tears and celebrating the massive number of judicial nominees confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate since President Donald Trump took office.
If only we could restrain our awe of quantity long enough to think about quality.
Two days earlier, Judge Charles Goodwin blocked Oklahoma from holding elective abortions to the same suspensions currently being applied to non-urgent medical procedures all across the country. This sort of thing has happened in multiple states recently, and it’s likely just a matter of time before it reaches the Supreme Court. But what makes this instance the most important of them all is the fact that Goodwin is a Trump appointee, confirmed by a GOP Senate.
Worse, from reading Goodwin’s order it’s clear that he didn’t simply rule based on a technicality or submit to the controlling authority of a higher court — this is what he actually believes.
He declares that the state “acted in an ‘unreasonable,’ ‘arbitrary,’ and ‘oppressive’ way.” He parrots the usual “fundamental right” and “undue burden” rhetoric. He repeatedly claims outright that denying chemical abortions and substantially delaying surgical ones doesn’t just violate Roe v. Wade or Planned Parenthood v. Casey, but the 14th Amendment itself (fact-check: Pants on Fire).
How did this happen? How did Goodwin slip through despite being the polar opposite of the type of judges that Trump promised?
There’s plenty of blame to go around, so let’s start at the top. Well before his election, Trump famously promised to outsource the judicial selection process to the conservative Federalist Society and Heritage Foundation. Politically, it was a smart move to reassure people who were still wary of Trump’s liberal past, but it's clear that neither group’s seal of approval is enough to embrace their recommendations without independent review — which isn’t happening, whether due to simple negligence, lack of devotion to originalism, or an assumption that more moderate-to-liberal judges will be easier to confirm.
While the president has obviously nominated many solid jurists, it’s equally obvious that nobody in his White House is bothering to weed out the potential hazards. As a result, we get pro-aborts like Goodwin and Robert Colville, members of LGBT advocacy groups like Patrick Bumatay and Mary Rowland, or Michael Bogren, who went after a family farm in Michigan for “discrimination” (translation: Christianity). For all the high-profile hysterics over their nominations, even Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh remain open questions on far too many areas of jurisprudence.
In theory, the above problem is why the Senate reviews judicial nominees before they assume lifetime seats, to ensure thorough evaluation of individuals being considered for such vast power. In practice … not so much. All of the aforementioned nominees (with the exception of Bogren) went through the confirmation process facing varying degrees of hostility from Democrats, but almost none from Republicans. Any questioning of whether nominees were conservative enough was not only ignored but attacked.
That brings us to the final reason why Trump, McConnell, and Senate Republicans keep letting us down on this point: because we keep letting them. The messaging from the overwhelming majority of pro-life groups, publications, and activists is that the judges are a great achievement and Trump is doing just fine as the “most pro-life president ever.” To be sure, Trump has done a lot of good that deserves thanks and support. But when key factions of his base are talking only about the good and politely ignoring the bad, there’s no pressure to improve.
And now we’re starting to see the price of our silence. The danger isn’t theoretical anymore; a judge nominated by a GOP president and rubber-stamped by a GOP Senate just did Planned Parenthood’s bidding. It’s too late to know how many more judges are waiting to blow up in our face, but we can start to demand better of our elected leaders for the next judicial vacancies … that is, assuming enough conservatives decide that protecting the Constitution is more important than making liberals cry.