In these decisions, Kennedy displayed the same ineffectual ambivalence as the House Republicans from swing seats who, earlier this month, abandoned their effort to force a vote on protecting the so-called Dreamers, young people brought to the country illegally by their parents. The moderates backed down after House Speaker Paul Ryan promised to fold some limited protection into a more comprehensive immigration bill. But that legislation, amid mixed signals from Trump, was resoundingly rejected in the House on Wednesday. Kennedy and the moderates alike may as well have bought a billboard telling Trump, “I don’t like your descent into nativism and xenophobia, but I won’t do much to stop it.” To the contrary: With a retirement timed to boost Republican electoral prospects, Kennedy appears intent on providing his party the means to continue it.
With these decisions, the Supreme Court majority has broadcast that, like the Republican majorities in Congress, it is unlikely to seriously restrain Trump. (And the Court will be even less likely to do so, of course, if Trump can confirm a successor to Kennedy.) If nothing else, that prospect ought to dispel any illusions for Democratic voters that the courts might derail this president. The Supreme Court’s real message for Democrats this term is that if they want to change the country’s direction, they must mobilize to beat Trump and congressional Republicans at the ballot box.