In 2016, I proposed a system of scoring political candidates (and especially presidential candidates) according to their level of support for the specific provisions of the Bill of Rights. Later that year, I rated the presidential candidates on the Virginia ballot. Now it’s time to do it with the 2020 candidates on Virginia’s presidential ballot.

The details of the scoring methodology are not repeated here. If you are interested in a more detailed treatment of the score components, you can refer back to that original post. You can also take a look below the chart for some notes that explain some of the scores, especially those that are based on assumptions rather than explicit statements by the candidates.

As I noted on the original post, the only good/acceptable score is an A+ (100%). Because presidents are sworn to protect and defend the constitution, they must comply with every single one of its provisions. Scores of A and B (80-99%) are bad. Scores of C and D (60-79%) are really bad. Scores of F (0-59%) are really, really bad.

. . . Continued
Amy Coney Barrett

President Donald Trump (R) will nominate Amy Coney Barrett to the United States Supreme Court. Barrett is a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Barrett would replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died earlier this month of complications from pancreatic cancer. Ginsburg was part of the court’s ‘progressive wing’ and an advocate of the living constitution school of jurisprudence. Barrett is a ‘conservative’ jurist of either the originalist or textualist school. If confirmed, she would likely shift the ideological balance of the court from centrist or narrowly conservative to a more solid conservative majority.

Barrett worked as a law clerk for Judge Laurence Silberman of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for Justice Antonin Scalia of the U.S. Supreme Court. She has taught at the George Washington University School of Law and the Notre Dame Law School. At Notre Dame, she has won numerous awards and her scholarship has focused primarily on constitutional law. Barrett was nominated to the U.S. Count of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017 and was confirmed by the U.S. Senate with a bipartisan 55-43 vote.

Republican leaders claimed in 2016 that it was inappropriate to act on a Supreme Court nomination in a presidential election year, but they have since reversed their positions, citing either the treatment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh by Democrats during his confirmation hearings, or the alignment of the presidency and majority party in the Senate (a nuance that, curiously, was never mentioned in 2016). It appears very likely that the Senate will take up Barrett’s nomination and hold a vote before the November election.

Justice Ginsburg

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the United States Supreme Court has died. She was 87. Ginsburg, who has had numerous recent health scares, died of complications from pancreatic cancer.

Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton (D) in 1993. She was part of the court’s ‘progressive wing’ and an advocate of the ‘living constitution’ school of jurisprudence. She was a fierce advocate for women’s rights and numerous progressive causes. In recent years, Ginsburg has become a pop-culture phenomenon and has been popularly dubbed “The Notorious R.B.G.”

She is survived by her two children and four grandchildren.

Supreme Court justices are nominated by the president and must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Ginsburg’s death, coming only forty-six days before the 2020 presidential election, is likely to lead to a political firestorm. Already, parallels are being drawn with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

In 2016, the Republican-led Senate refused to act upon President Barack Obama’s (D) nomination of Merrick Garland. Republican leaders at the time argued that it was inappropriate to act on a Supreme Court nomination in a presidential election year. Ultimately, President Donald Trump (R) nominated Neil Gorsuch to the court and he was confirmed by the Senate. Some Republicans, in a curious bit of historical revisionism, are already claiming that their refusal to act on the Garland nomination in 2016—citing the so-called “Biden Rule” or “McConnell Rule”—only applies when different parties control the White House and the Senate.

The Commonwealth of Virginia has been in an official state of emergency because of the COVID-19 epidemic since March 12, 2020. Governor Ralph Northam (D) declared as much in Executive Order 51, which remains in effect until amended or rescinded. In mid-March, Virginia was just beginning to see its first cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that originated in Wuhan, China, last year.

By then we knew we were in a pandemic, but we knew little else with certainty. A careful analysis of the available data suggested that COVID-19 was worse than the seasonal flu, but not drastically so . . . but we did not know that for sure. The fear-mongers in the press began to issue fire-and-brimstone pronouncements with little basis in reality, and, soon enough, lots of people were demanding that their governments take drastic action.

Parts of the U.S. were beginning to lock down, as were other countries around the world. Virginia imposed its first social distancing restrictions on March 23, and then a full stay-at-home order on March 30. Although I can (and did) quibble over some of the details, the restrictions, at the time they were imposed, were generally prudent. Had I been governor I would have made fewer orders and more recommendations, since I err on the side of letting people make their own choices, but in truth I have few real complaints about Virginia’s early handling of the crisis.

. . . Continued
Donald Trump

The delegates to the Republican National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, have officially nominated President Donald Trump (R) for reelection as President of the United States. Votes were cast in person and remotely, and only a limited number of delegates were physically present due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Trump will stand in the November general election against the Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden (D).

Trump has been the presumptive Republican nominee since securing a majority of pledged party convention delegates in March. He faced no serious national competition for the party nomination, and today’s convention vote makes his nomination official. He is joined on the Republican ticket by his running mate, Vice President Mike Pence (R).

Before his election to the presidency, Trump served as the chairman and president of The Trump Organization, a ninety-seven year old conglomerate with interests in—among other things—real estate, investing, and property management. It is composed of more than five hundred subsidiaries, the majority of which are named for Trump. One of those subsidiaries is the television production company that produced The Apprentice for NBC, which starred Trump from 2004 to 2015. Before the 2016 election, Forbes Magazine estimated that Trump’s net worth was about $4.5 billion.

Trump—a brash, center-left outsider who never held elective office before becoming president—has upended many American political norms. On some issues, especially the right to life and self defense rights, he shifted firmly in line with Republican Party orthodoxy during his campaign and presidency. On others—like trade, foreign policy, and scope of government—he remains out of step with many traditional conservatives, especially those who lean libertarian.

In December 2019, Trump was impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress in connection with an alleged attempt to enlist foreign interference in the 2020 presidential election. He was acquitted by the U.S. Senate in February.

The Republican Party is the last of the three ‘fifty-state’ parties to officially select its presidential and vice presidential nominees. The Libertarian Party selected its nominees at the Libertarian Nominating Convention held online in May. The Democratic Party selected its nominees at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last week.