Maybe the long-term damage Trump does to conservatism’s brand outweighs his contributions on judges. But that is a tougher case to make than simultaneously arguing Trump is too liberal and too flawed. And that’s why the Never Trumpers still seeking to discredit Trump’s conservatism on judges, like former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt and Washington Post conservative Jennifer Rubin, sound an awful lot like liberals.
Provided the president nominates a conservative judge, it will be hard for conservatives in good standing to oppose him or her — and a confirmation would give Trump a solid claim to a respectable conservative legacy.
All of this could be completely undone by developments in the Trump-Russia probe or an economic downturn (especially if precipitated by trade wars) or a blowout in the midterm elections, to name just a few scenarios that could vindicate the Never Trumpers’ political judgment. With the Supreme Court weighing in the balance, however, at the moment conservatives are getting quite a lot out of their deal with The Donald.