Imagine a Supreme Court with a 7-2 conservative majority. That’s the image that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis conjured up Monday night for a Christian conference in Orlando.
According to The Washington Post, the soon-to-be Republican presidential candidate told the audience — to raucous applause — that “you would have a 7-2 conservative majority on the Supreme Court that would last a quarter-century.” DeSantis suggested that Republican appointees Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and John Roberts, as well as Democratic appointee Sonia Sotomayor, could need to be replaced over the course of a two-term presidency, the Post reported. (When Sotomayor turns 69 in June, those three conservative judges will range from 68 to 75.)
DeSantis said he wants new justices in the mold of Thomas and Alito, the Post reported. Thomas, of course, is the subject of an ongoing ethics scandal for not reporting years of lavish gifts from GOP billionaire Harlan Crow, who is not cooperating with a Senate investigation of the relationship and related court ethics issues.
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According to the Post, DeSantis expressed concern Monday that replacing a justice like Thomas “with somebody like a Roberts or somebody like that, then you’re going to actually see the court move to the left, and you can’t do that.” The derisive remark about the chief justice’s conservative bona fides serves to underscore the GOP’s decades-long project of building the court that overturned Roe v. Wade last year, in which even a clear conservative such as Roberts has come to be viewed as an apostate of sorts.
That Roberts currently sits on the left of his court, which has six Republican appointees, says more about the court’s right than it does about him. DeSantis’ main presidential rival, former President Donald Trump, was instrumental in helping to build that court with three appointments of his own in just one term.
And while it’s notable when a presumptive presidential candidate talks about shaping the Supreme Court, it’s likely that any eventual GOP nominee will similarly take the judicial appointments process seriously. Republicans understand the importance of the courts as a tool for imposing their unpopular policies.
As I noted recently, unless Democrats add seats to the Supreme Court, their party might not gain control of the court until 2065.
DeSantis’ vision then, rather than being unique to him among a field of somewhat fungible Republican freaks, is a reminder of the importance not only of the 2024 presidential election, but also the congressional elections that will affect the future membership of the court as well.