• After Scalia’s death, the 2016 election just got more serious for all GOP voters.

    antonia Scalia
    Wonder Land Columnist Dan Henninger asks: Are voters serious about saving the country, or not? Photo credit: Getty Images.

    Donald Trump got past dismissing John McCain’s years being tortured in the Hanoi Hilton, and he may get by saying a two-term president who remains popular with Republicans was a liar whose malfeasance let 9/11 happen.

    What Donald Trump may not survive is the death of Antonin Scalia.

    After Mr. Trump’s announcement for the presidency last June, the Republicans’ nomination process turned into a gravitational black hole, sucking into it media particles and any loose political sentiment.

    The death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia has disrupted the GOP’s fantastic journey. Republicans now face the 18th-century warning of Samuel Johnson: “Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.”

    The prospect that Hillary Clinton—or Bernie Sanders—could name one, two or three Supreme Court Justices is an invitation to a hanging for Republicans.

    In last Saturday’s debate, hours after Justice Scalia’s death, Ted Cruzdescribed the stakes: “The two branches of government hang in the balance—not just the president but the Supreme Court.” Sen. Cruz is right, almost.

    For Republicans, the great sobering up has begun, and it starts with the post-Scalia Supreme Court.

    Until now, the Court and its future membership has floated in the background of the campaign, what with all the time needed to learn what the meaning of “amnesty” is.

    One cause of the anger among conservatives, many now Trump supporters, has been the not-incorrect belief that political elites have been telling them what to do and how to think.

    Often left unremarked, because it has become background noise, is that those commands have the force of law.

    Justice Scalia spent his career on the bench fighting that force of law, a force derived from a postmodern legal jurisprudence that identifies a political result, outputs a torrent of moralistic verbiage on the subject, and then waves the enforcement onto the public. You want anger at government imposition? Read Justice Scalia’s dissents.

    The Court stands divided at 4-4. Progressives can go to bed knowing that over four years, a Clinton or Sanders Court would become 5-4 or even 6-3 for them. In eight years, bye-bye Supreme Court.

    The upside for Republicans is the Supreme Court doesn’t animate turnout among the new Democratic coalition. Progressive millennials know more about safe spaces than stare decisis.

    Still, it takes a lot to believe that Donald Trump could win more electoral-college votes than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders andthat his Supreme Court appointments would have Justice Scalia’s respect for the lives of his voters. Mr. Trump’s nominations for anything sit as a mystery.

    Before Justice Scalia’s death, some might have said the Trump option was a risk worth running. The risk now has become too high.

    With the Court’s relevance re-established for picking a presidential nominee, the moment has arrived to complete the trifecta of primary voting issues: What about control of Congress?

    Sen. Cruz’s remark that the presidency and Supreme Court are at risk was an understatement. He didn’t mention holding control of the Senate.

    Justice Scalia’s death forces to the surface not only the Court but five at-risk GOP Senate seats: New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte,Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, Ohio’s Rob Portman, Illinois’s Mark Kirk and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson. Throw in Marco Rubio’s open seat. Democrats need to win four to end the GOP majority.

    Lose them in 2016, and Republicans lose reform of ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, taxes, the bureaucracy and, yes, the border. And absent half those reforms, probably get a de facto global recession.

    Presidential electability has been mostly a buzzword. No longer. The GOP primary is now about electability on steroids. The party needs a candidate with the widest, deepest appeal.

    All those vulnerable senators are in purple states Barack Obamacarried in 2012. Could they run ahead of or independently of their nominee? That will be hard this year. Media saturation has totally nationalized U.S. politics. State nuance has eroded. These candidates will be joined at the hip to the Republican nominee.

    Ted Cruz’s path to the nomination is: Win the support of hard, even embittered conservatives and religious voters, especially in the South.. That he has now overtaken Donald Trump in the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll suggests this may be plausible. The moment has arrived to ask Mr. Cruz exactly how he proposes to pull across independents in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, New Hampshire, Wisconsin or Colorado—along with the GOP Senate candidates there.

    In Gallup’s polling of the national electorate, Donald Trump’s unfavorable rating is a historically unprecedented 60%. To save those at-risk seats, much less any presidential candidacy, Mr. T has to bring down that number.

    He has made no effort to do so. He’s running in South Carolina on the Iraq war a decade ago rather than the existential Republican threat of 2016. After Scalia, Republican voters have to save the presidency, the Supreme Court and the Congress. Are we getting serious yet?

    Write to henninger@wsj.com


    Posted by Dana West @ 3:38 pm for 2nd Amendment, Climate Change, Economy, Editorial, Education, Energy, Immigration, Issues, Jobs, Legal Issues, National politics, ObamaCare, Taxes, Terrorism, Transportation, War on Women |

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