You’re not just voting for president

The Never Trumps are nothing new in presidential campaigns.

There have been Never (fill in the blanks) regarding every major-party presidential candidate.

One time or another, many Nevers – throughout a presidential-primary season – supported the candidate who eventually was nominated.

Then they urged those who had backed other candidates during the primaries to support the nominee in the general election, because they said the nominee was better than the other general-election candidate, and said no third-party candidate had a realistic chance.

And they urged others to support the nominee, no matter how understandable their doubts were, because not supporting one candidate was akin to backing the other.

However, sometimes they overlook these principles when the tables are turned and their favorite candidate isn’t nominated.

So it is this time with many Never Trumps. Some of them say they back Hillary Clinton. Others say they don’t, or haven’t said.

But again, not supporting one candidate is akin to backing the other. So either way, Never Trumps are backing Clinton.

They’d do well to reconsider their position, because they’re as mistaken as they previously said others were. There are multiple reasons, none greater than the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump has pledged to appoint originalists to the high court. From Clinton we’ll get the opposite: More activists, who – beginning with the Supreme Court’s 1857 disaster in Dred Scott v. Sandford – have written their own policy preferences into the law.

Yet activism isn’t something to avoid only when the result is bad. By picking the result it wants to reach and then deciphering reasons to get there, a court teaches that the ends justify the means, fosters manipulation, erodes respect for the law, undercuts the public’s faith in government, engenders cynicism, and undermines – over the long term – nothing less than the rule of law itself and thereby government’s ability to protect ordered liberty, including the inherited rights we cherish.

On some issues, activists haven’t prevailed so far. To pick just one example: In 5 to 4 decisions in 2008 and 2010, the Supreme Court held that the Second Amendment establishes an individual’s right, and applies to both the federal government and the states. But now the fifth vote – Justice Antonin Scalia – is gone. Under Clinton, the Second Amendment as we know it could well be gone too.

On some other issues, activists already have five reliable votes. Clinton would make that six or more. On a nine-member court, that could well mean an insurmountable majority for the rest of our lives, perhaps beyond, if activists gained power and were reluctant to let go.

To put it another way: The winner of this presidential election will be out of the White House after two four-year terms at most. But the effect on the Supreme Court and the rule of law will last for the rest of our lives, perhaps beyond. Never Trumps who dislike Trump will, or at least should, dislike Clinton’s effect on the Supreme Court and the rule of law a lot – a whole lot – more.

It’s that simple, and it’s that urgent. This isn’t about any political party. This is way, way, way beyond that.

Never Trumps disregarding this either foolishly (1) like activism, (2) don’t care, (3) don’t care enough, or (4) think they can rescue the court soon in another presidential election.

Although Trump wasn’t their choice for the nomination, that’s never the question in a general election. Now Never Trumps should follow the principles that they previously urged others to follow when Never Trumps – throughout a presidential-primary season – supported the candidate who eventually was nominated.

Whatever Never Trumps’ frustration with the result of the primaries, such frustration doesn’t justify handing over the Supreme Court and the rule of law for the rest of our lives, perhaps beyond.

Never Trumps owe their country more than that.

West Ellicott resident Randy Elf has been a teacher, a Post-Journal reporter, a law clerk to two federal judges, a state Assembly candidate, and a lawyer who has defended First Amendment rights to political speech for Americans from across the political spectrum.