In the executive and judicial branches, Trump appointees will advance ever more severe conservative principles

July 20, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
July 20, 2018

When the history of Donald Trump’s presidential administration is written, a chapter will likely be devoted to Scott Pruitt’s feckless reign over the Environmental Protection Agency.

The former Oklahoma attorney general’s 17-month tenure at EPA was a microcosm of Trump’s chaotic rule. Disdain for science, contempt for the rule of law, indifference to sound policy-making, eagerness to appease business interests, hunger for personal gain — the Pruitt era featured all the hallmarks that have come to represent Trumpist governance.

Pruitt’s replacement will be Andrew Wheeler, a former coal lobbyist who once served as an aide to Jim Inhofe, the Oklahoma Republican who is the Senate’s most ardent climate skeptic. Wheeler will be hard-pressed to match Pruitt’s record of corruption and incompetence, which led to his resignation and distracted from his attempts to dismantle environmental regulations. It’s yet to be seen if Wheeler will be more effective at unraveling anti-pollution measures, although some pundits fear that he will surpass his former boss in this regard.

In this, too, the EPA’s saga mirrors the larger arc of Trump’s America. The retirement last month of Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court associate justice, means in all likelihood that a reliably conservative vote will be replaced by an unswervingly conservative one.

Kennedy’s last cases saw him deal significant a blow to public unions, uphold a restrictive Trump administration travel ban that has drawn comparisons to the roundup of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, and strike down a California law that forbade pro-life counseling centers from giving incorrect and incomplete information to pregnant women about abortion and their medical options.

In his last term, Kennedy sided with the conservative wing of the court in every single 5-4 decision — the first and only time that happened since Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor retired from the court in 2006. That said, Kennedy will long be remembered for his pivotal votes in favor of gay rights, particularly gay marriage. He also sided with court liberals in protecting abortion rights from restrictive state laws.

Which brings us to his likely replacement, Brett Kavanaugh, who has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., for the past dozen years. Kavanaugh is widely expected to provide a fifth vote for — if not outright overturning Roe vs. Wade — at the least, diminishing abortion rights to the point of meaninglessness. It’s also anticipated that Kavanaugh will side with Supreme Court conservatives in reducing protections for gay rights. His confirmation to the court will undoubtedly help advance a conservative agenda that favors expanded rights for businesses and other powerful, monied interests while generally rejecting the public’s interest in an unpolluted environment, equal rights and fair political representation.

It’s easy to get distracted from this prospect, especially when the president is publicly feuding with longtime allies like Britain, Germany, Canada and Australia and embracing dictatorial leaders of traditional adversaries such as North Korea and Russia. But the truth is plain: Trump may be personally erratic, but his administration has furthered that agenda at every opportunity. That’s something Democrats and independent voters should keep in mind as midterm elections approach.

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