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How to React to Bad Supreme Court Nominees, Without Assassination

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on August 10, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

At a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina yesterday, real life Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump suggested that a Hillary Clinton presidency would result in a Supreme Court willing to undermine Second Amendment rights -- and he may have called for Clinton's assassination. "If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks," he said. "Although the Second Amendment people -- maybe there is, I don't know."

It was, to many observers, an unprecedented campaign line, a wink-wink-nudge-nudge call for the murder of your political opponent, over the composition of the Supreme Court. Trump's campaign argues that he was speaking of the "power of unification," not the power of gunpowder. But either way, what's good for the gander is good for the goose, so let's take a look at which of Trump's potential Supreme Court nominees could rally the Democrat's traditional base to "put a stop" to his SCOTUS agenda -- or at least inspire some nominees to "get Borked."

Murder and the American Political Process

If we're being entirely honest, killing your opponents isn't wholly unfamiliar to American politics, even mainstream politics. Alexander Hamilton was famously killed by Aaron Burr, the sitting Vice President, in an 1804 duel that stemmed from Burr's failed run for New York governor.

While the death of a sitting U.S. president is relatively rare, four in total have been assassinated on the job: Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy. Dozens of assassination attempts have been made against presidents as well. Andrew Jackson was shot at by a would-be assassin with poor aim and ended up beating his assailant senseless with his cane. Teddy Roosevelt was shot in the chest while giving a speech during his Progressive Party presidential run and he finished his speech with the bullet lodged between his ribs.

And Hillary Clinton has repeatedly bragged about the killing of Osama Bin Laden, which, justified as it may be, took place extra-judicially.

But, typically, assassination isn't part of the mainstream American political vernacular, particularly around the Supreme Court.

Top 3 Powder Keg Trump SCOTUS Nominees

While Clinton's potential Supreme Court justices remain a mystery, Donald Trump gave us a peak into his preferred highest court in May, releasing a list of 11 potential SCOTUS nominees. They weren't the most famous jurists in the world, but they were also not conservative radicals.

But could they get liberals into enough of a froth to "do something" about a Trump Supreme Court? Trump has already claimed "the Second Amendment people," so that leaves the Democrats with a few of the other amendments to work with. There are the Fourteenth Amendment people, who might take offense to justices that wanted to roll back reproductive rights. There are the Fourth Amendment people, with their fear of a candidate that's too focused on "law and order" and not on individual privacy. And don't get us started on the First Amendment fanatics, with their staunch opposition to tracking religious minorities.

Looking at those groups, we can narrow down Trump's potential nominees to just three "powder keg" candidates.

No, of course we can't, because the idea of proposing a politician's assassination over Supreme Court nominations is so offensive and absurd that we almost can't fathom how a major political figure could propose as much. Almost.

More Appropriate Responses to SCOTUS Nominees

Instead of proposing assassination, most politicians take a different tack when it comes to the Supreme Court nomination process. Perhaps the most famous example of Supreme Court opposition was the defeat of Robert Bork. Nominated by President Reagan in 1987, Bork was rejected by the Senate in a drawn-out fight that touched on everything from the conservative jurist's constitutional philosophy (he was a hard-core originalist) to his stance on civil rights (he wasn't entirely against poll taxes) to his video rental history (he liked "The Man Who Knew Too Much.") It was a rough fight, one that turned "Bork" into a verb, but both Bork and Reagan survived. The relatively moderate Anthony Kennedy was nominated in Bork's stead.

More recently, the Senate has reacted to Supreme Court nominees by simply ignoring them. President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court months ago, as a replacement for the late Justice Scalia. Since then, Senate Republicans have simply refused to take any action on the nomination, making Garland's the longest-pending Supreme Court nomination ever.

Both responses were considered extreme at the time, though they seem downright timid when compared to alternative urged by Trump yesterday.

Of course, the most reasonable way to protect the Supreme Court from your opponent is simply to win the election yourself.

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