Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Judge William H. Pryor is on Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court Justices. He’s considered by some to be a frontrunner for the the job, though any attempts to get inside Donald Trump’s head have been fruitless. On the surface, Pryor seems like a perfect Trump pick, but that’s only if what Trump has said is really what Trump believes.
I would support Pryor for the job because he’s a small-government Federalist and originalist, which is why I don’t see Trump selecting him.
His surface qualities align with Trump’s campaign promises very well. He’s firmly pro-life and is arguably the closest to a being a direct replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia, deviating only slightly in ideology. He’s controversial, something that Trump seems to crave based upon his recent cabinet choices. Most importantly, his vote to decline review of a groundbreaking transgender rights case in 2004 could signal alignment with Trump’s desire to stay out of the bathroom battle.
It all sounds like a natural fit, right? There’s one major problem.
Pryor is outspoken about his desire to reduce powers in DC. Like Scalia, who Trump scolded in December last year when the Justice said that affirmative action was untenable, Pryor believes the Constitutional restrictions on the federal government are being disregarded. If he has his way with the right cases hitting the Supreme Court, it could result in diminished powers for Trump himself. That dog probably won’t hunt in Trump country.
The only way I can see Trump selecting Pryor is if he’s either unaware of the potential for reduced executive powers or he’s confident that it would never get that far. Short of a Convention of States or a rapid rise of the Federalist Party in the ranks of the legislature, Supreme Court decisions are the only realistic way to rein in the powers accumulated in DC over the last century. Neither Republican nor Democratic lawmakers have generally expressed interest in taking away their own powers in DC and President-elect Trump has essentially vowed to increase executive powers and overreach.
There are many good names on Trump’s SCOTUS list as well as a good option not on the list (Senator Ted Cruz), so picking one of the purest Constitutionalists may not be an option for Trump. It’s a shame because the real way to “Make America Great Again” would be to return to 10th Amendment fundamentals. Pryor would be an advocate of such moves. Trump probably wouldn’t.