Why Do Some Republicans Drift Leftward?

The liberals' worst nightmare has come to pass: Ruth Bader Ginsburg died during the Trump administration.  Many supporters had urged her to retire during Obama's tenure so he could appoint her leftist successor.  But with arrogant defiance, Ginsburg stayed on the bench, certain, no doubt, that President Hillary Clinton would name her successor.

Reality's one tough customer.

Now President Trump has nominated Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.  We'll let all the others recount her unimpeachable credentials.  Suffice to say, Mrs. Barrett is at least as qualified for the bench as was Mrs. Ginsburg.  Ginsburg was confirmed 96-3 in just 50 days.  Historically, it doesn't take long to confirm Supreme Court justices, so let's dispense with that straw man.  There's plenty of time before Election Day.

A devout Catholic, Barrett will endure the unrelenting slings and arrows of oh, so tolerant Democratic senators (should they even decide to attend the hearings) and the ever fair-minded liberal MSM.  Her seven children will be presented as exhibits of evidence of her unsuitability to serve, proof that anyone who would choose to raise seven children in a stable household with a spouse, complete with homework, birthday parties, and new clothes, is someone who is hopelessly out of touch with today's new societal norms and is therefore incapable of rendering relevant judicial decisions in the modern world.

However, let's assume that Barrett survives all the procedural, legal, and personal attacks that the Democrats can muster and is confirmed to the Court.  What then?  Can conservatives be confident that Barrett will be the kind of Justice that brings a commonsense, constitutional, reliably traditional voice to the bench?  Or will she soften over time; stray from her roots; and become more of an unpredictable, random vote?

Unfortunately, this softening seems to happen pretty often with conservative Republicans, whether it be judges or politicians.  They wander from their conservative ideals, the ones that got them appointed or elected in the first place.

For politicians, the examples are endless.  The much ballyhooed "Maverick of the Senate," John McCain, was celebrated by the liberal mainstream media because he frequently sided with the Democrats.  Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are two examples of "Never Trump" Republicans whom liberals love so much.  So admirable and principled, no?  The liberal media love to highlight NeverTrump Republicans as some sort of "proof" that President Trump is unworthy.  When Romney ran for president, the liberal media portrayed him as the most misogynistic spoiled rich kid imaginable, complete with his infamous binders of women, his pretentious new house with its car elevator, and a foreign policy stuck in the 1980s.  But these days, let him publicly rebuke President Trump, and suddenly he's a distinguished, veteran statesman, a steady voice in the Senate.  His newfound liberal acceptance will no doubt evaporate before our very eyes now that he has pledged to support Barrett's confirmation.

While Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch (with one glaring exception) are mostly reliable conservatives, the Court's undecided vote is always an erstwhile conservative.  Sandra Day O'Connor was an uncertain vote before every big case.  She was appointed by President Reagan in 1987 and thought to be a definite conservative-leaning judge prior to her appointment.  David Souter, named by Bush I in 1990, ended up being a huge disappointment to conservatives.  He regularly strayed from conservative orthodoxy and often sided with the Court's liberal faction.  Anthony Kennedy, the judge named in wake of Robert Bork's politically charged rejection, was known as the "swing vote" — a term not even in existence before him.  Kennedy earned the ire of conservatives several times, sometimes inexplicably citing foreign case law as precedent for American suits.

The biggest conservative disappointment in recent times has been Bush II appointee Chief Justice John Roberts.  In his stunning deciding vote to uphold Obamacare in 2012, he sided with the liberal justices to retain the individual mandate.  His reasoning was that the penalty for non-compliance amounted to a tax and that "the Constitution permits such a tax."  Conservatives felt betrayed when they realized that Roberts was not going to be the dependable right vote they thought he'd be.

Kennedy, O'Connor, Souter, and Roberts — all were initially thought to be conservative, but their actual Supreme Court performances ended up being surprisingly moderate-to-liberal.  The Supreme "drift" is always in the conservative-to-liberal direction.

The question is why.  Why do Republicans turn soft and drift leftward, but Democrats never seem to drift to the right?  There is no McCain analogue on the left, no "Maverick of the Senate" Democrat who votes often with the conservatives.  We never seem to question whether the Democrats will hold their ranks or how many Democratic senators will bolt and vote the other way.  Is there even the slightest doubt as to how Breyer, Sotomayor, or Kagan will vote?  Was there ever even a scintilla of doubt as to how RGB was going to vote on contentious liberal-conservative issues?  No.  All four were and are reliably, completely rubber-stamp liberals, every single time.

As to why Republicans drift, this is tougher to pin down.  One or a combination of the following could explain it:

  • Perhaps Republicans, realizing either consciously or reflexively that the mainstream liberal media cards are stacked against them, try in some way to curry favor with the hostile media: "Well, So-and-So is a 'reasonable' Republican, someone who has some fealty to the notion of honorable public service."  Some Republicans covet such media approval.  Democrats don't need to seek media approval — they already have it.
  • It's possible that the conservative mindset is more steeped in historic tradition, a high regard for law and order, and a respect for the Constitution as our guiding document than is the liberal mindset, so when a proposed policy seems contrary to a conservative's sensibilities, they honestly oppose it.  The conservative mind feels no hesitation in being loyal to personal ethics over party dogma.  Liberals are unencumbered by such quaint considerations and willingly sell the country down the river in an instant when their party asks them to.
  • Another possibility: Democrats are simply used to presenting disingenuous, fraudulent policies, such as racial and ethnic quotas that will never apply to them, wasteful "safety net" programs like SNAP that are riddled with corruption but are funded by "other people's money," and support for blatantly illegal sanctuary cities, where Democrats knowingly welcome dangerous people who degrade the area's standard of living, but whose American-born offspring will instantly become Democratic voters.  For Democrats, looking the other way in the face of such deceitful, double-standard legislation has become easy.  It's standard practice, and they feel no hesitation about doing it en masse, never straying.

Full circle, this brings us back to Judge Amy Coney Barrett.  Assuming she is confirmed, what kind of Supreme Court justice will she prove to be?  Will she be the dependable conservative her supporters hope for?  Or will she turn into an unpredictable "swing vote"?  Time will tell.

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