I’ve noted before that these days all the liberals on the Court have been appointed by Democratic presidents and all the conservatives on the Court by Republican presidents. This wasn’t true until Justice Stevens retired.
With today’s confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, not only does the trend continue but it is likely to accelerate thanks to the use of the nuclear option.
We can expect Republicans to pick reliably very conservative nominees when there is a Republican president and Senate, and Democrats to pick reliably liberal nominees when there is a Democratic president and Senate. (We well may have stalemate, as we had with Merrick Garland, when government is divided.) There will be less need to pick someone who can satisfy a handful of the other side given the loss of the filibuster.
And as it becomes clear that we have “Republican” and “Democratic” Justices, views of the Supreme Court as a more partisan institution will grow.
With Justice Gorsuch, we have the first product of the partisan Supreme Court. One thing that sticks in my mind from the confirmation hearings is J. Gorsuch’s frequent use of the term “Democrat Party” rather than “Democratic Party.” He’s a smart guy. He knows that’s an insult to Democrats and a dog whistle to the right. There was no need even for an appearance of accommodation to the other side, despite the pose of being a neutral arbiter of the law calling balls and strikes.
It is a Republican Supreme Court because it is majority Republican. If things change, we may have a Democratic Supreme Court. The Justices won’t see themselves this way, because they are not acting in a consciously partisan matter. But they were chosen because the way they will vote will line up with their party’s partisan interests.
It is hard to know what the future holds fully but this is not a promising development.