WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Joe Biden rarely mentions his predecessor by name. But as he spoke to a nation processing a seismic shift in the rights of women, he couldn’t ignore Donald Trump’s legacy.
“It was three justices named by one president — Donald Trump — who were the core of today’s decision to upend the scales of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country,” Biden said Friday after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling from 1973 that provided constitutional protections for women seeking abortions.
The abortion decision marked the apex in a week that reinforced the former president’s ongoing impact in Washington more than a year and a half after he exited the White House.
The developments were a reminder of the political bargain social conservatives embraced to achieve their grandest ambitions. In refusing to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee during the final year of his presidency, then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., ensured that the next president would be able to make his mark on the court. As Trump pledged to transform the Supreme Court’s ideological leanings —- even providing a list of the judges he would choose from — reluctant conservative Republicans and evangelical Christians rallied behind Trump.
“When he ran in 2016, he promised that he would appoint conservative and pro-life judges to the federal courts starting with the U.S. Supreme Court. And he kept his word,” said Ralph Reed, an evangelical leader and chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “Those in the faith community that felt it was worth taking a chance on Donald Trump in 2016 have been vindicated.”
The GOP is now at something of a turning point in its relationship with a man who has fundamentally transformed the party with his populist, “Make America Great Again” agenda and his fight against the establishment Republicans who used to control the party. There’s a growing debate within the party about whether Trump’s resonance is beginning to fade as he lays the groundwork for a third presidential run in 2024.
Other leading Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence, and Trump’s former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, are taking increasingly bold steps toward White House bids of their own. And many of Trump’s own supporters are eagerly embracing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as Trump’s natural successor as they look to the future.
Pence, Pompeo and DeSantis are among those who have made clear that a Trump candidacy would not influence their own decisions about whether to run. If they do run, they will all be competing for support from the same conservatives who fueled Trump’s rise.
At a Saturday night rally in Illinois, Trump took another victory lap to cheers from the crowd.
“Yesterday the court handed down a victory for the Constitution, a victory for the rule of law, and above all, a victory for life,” he told supporters, who broke into a chant of “Thank you Trump!.”
While Democrats are hoping the decision will galvanize its voters heading into November’s midterm elections, Michael Caputo, a former Trump campaign and White House adviser, argued the decision would be beneficial to Trump’s future political prospects, helping to cement his standing with conservative voters if he runs again.
“President Trump has been accepting his share of the credit for the Trump Court’s decision, as he should,” Caputo said. “This is yet another confirmation of his transformational presidency. Suburban Republican angst is a progressive myth; real suburban Republicans know their handwringing is performative: This decision simply moves the abortion issue to the states where it has always belonged.”