What does the death of our longest serving Justice, appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, and arguably the most forceful conservative on the Court mean for South Dakota?
Republican control of the Senate means President Barack Obama likely cannot secure a raging liberal. But he’ll at least get an Anthony Kennedy or a Sri Srinivasan. The culture warriors trying to use South Dakota as a testing ground for unconstitutional measures like Rep. Fred Deutsch’s transgender-bullying potty bill (violating Title IX) and Rep. Rev. Scott Craig’s statutory discrimination in religious drag (establishing religion) suddenly face a different calculus. Their friendliest face, the Court’s most voluble champion of arch-conservative “family” values, is gone. Any litigation they hope to trigger from the bigoted bills they are pushing through the South Dakota Legislature will face two Clinton nominees and three Obama nominees who will not put up with our abuse of the Constitution (not to mention transgender kids, gays, unmarried couples, women in general…).
Whether that changes any votes in Pierre is an open question. But the cost-benefit analysis for writing patently discriminatory laws and hoping a 5–4 decision will give them an excuse to stand just lost a lot of benefit.
Or how about a political bombshell: nominate Hillary Clinton. Give the GOP-controlled Senate a chance to make Bernie Sanders the Democratic Presidential nominee. Could Senators John Thune, Mike Rounds, and heck, Bernie Sanders himself pass up that opportunity?