Those who care about the preservation of our Constitution and our freedom are awash in relief at one key aspect of the results from Tuesday’s elections: the defeat of the most zealous election deniers in most races for state governor, state secretaries of state, and the U.S. Senate.
Americans who hold our courts dear can also appreciate these three pieces of good news for our system of justice:
1. The defeat of key state gubernatorial election deniers. The lifeblood of courts is reliable evidence. The country’s founders did not mean them to decide cases based on belief-systems that reject truth. If politicians who do not live in the fact-based political world were to become governors, they could appoint judges who come from the same mold. Over time, honest state judiciaries would lose their institutional lives.
Fortunately, election deniers such as Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania, Tim Michels in Wisconsin, and Tudor Dixon in Michigan lost their elections.
Not only had Mastriano pushed hard as a state senator in 2020 to overturn Biden’s 80,000 vote victory in the Keystone state, but he also attended Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on January 6, crossed police lines and breached barricades according to the Washington Post and to video.
Pennsylvania dodged a cannonball by not putting a lawless person in a position to appoint those whose job it is to apply the law.
In Michigan, gubernatorial candidate Dixon claimed in May that Trump won the 2020 election, notwithstanding his loss by 154,000 votes. In Wisconsin, would-be governor Michels campaigned by proclaiming that he would consider decertifying Wisconsin’s 2020 electoral vote for Biden. That, even though a state senate sponsored investigation by Trump hard-liner Michael Gableman yielded no evidence of any noteworthy ballot fraud.
Sensible Midwest voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania protected their courts by sending Mastriano, Michels, and Dixon to defeat.
2. It looks like federal judges will continue to be confirmed. While control of the Senate is not yet decided, the New York Times’ “Needle” is pointing to an outcome in which the current Senate majority stays in place. If it doesn’t, confirmation hearings on lower court judges would slow to a crawl for the next two years under a Republican majority. It’s safe to assume that the only Biden nominations of judges that would proceed to confirmation would be those who satisfied likely Senate Judiciary Chair Lindsey Graham’s litmus tests on abortion, labor issues, and voting rights.
After all, a near complete blockade of judicial confirmations was what happened under then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Senate when Obama was President. McConnell has already signaled his intention not to allow any nomination of a Supreme Court Justice to proceed in 2023 and 2024 should a vacancy occur.
And take note: If the final Senate election counts in Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia were to yield a change in party control, protecting the health of the federal judiciary would require current Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) to expedite confirmations that are currently pending. Otherwise, unfilled vacancies in the next two years will hamper the federal courts’ work administering justice in the nation, just as occurred during the final Obama years when Republicans slammed the breaks on the confirmation process.
3. The people showed their faith in the evidence-based work that courts do. This was the first election since 60 state and federal courts rejected the election-denialism of Donald Trump and his lawyers after the 2020 election. The voters’ 2022 rejection of so many election denialist candidates parallels those decisions and affirms the work of those courts.
It is worth remembering that judges are as human as the rest of us. When they see that the electorate has confidence in facts and truth, they are sure to feel validated in continuing to do the work that our courts have done for 235 years: resolving conflicts, political, personal, and commercial, based on evidence and not on bias or belief.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether an election denialist such as Arizona’s Kari Lake bucks the trend and ultimately wins a governorship. If so, in the current political environment that former President Donald Trump created, a national election with but a single such result must be taken as a victory.
We cannot afford more broadly to lose the nonpartisanship and adherence to evidence-based truth by our courts that public faith in them requires. They remain bulwarks of our constitutional republic, even when the Supreme Court and individual judges do not perform as they should or as we have every reason to expect. We must continue both to show our support for the good work that courts do and to fight for it. Judges of integrity need us to elect leaders of integrity if the judiciary is to serve as the sound instrument of law, fact, and freedom that it is capable of being.