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00000179-e1ff-d2b2-a3fb-ffffd7950001WNIJ's Friday Forum features in-depth interviews with state officials, community leaders, and others whose decisions influence your life. You can hear it every Friday during Morning Edition on 89.5 FM and WNIJ.org.

NIU Political Scientist Says No Surprise In Trump's High Court Pick


One of the major stories to come out of Washington D.C. this week was President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. On this week’s Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Jenna Dooley talks with Mitch Pickerill, a political scientist at Northern Illinois University.

Pickerill says the choice of the conservative Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy makes sense politically.

“For Republicans, it’s Trump honoring what I think many saw as a commitment that he made,” Pickerill said. “For Democrats, it’s pushing the court further to the right and potentially undoing what many saw as liberal gains in the law in the sixties and seventies.”

He says President Trump had several goals in mind with the nomination.

"One of which is to kind of shore up a conservative base and convince them that, despite other controversies that seem to arise around him, that they need him, and that he is delivering on something that is important to the base and that is delivering conservative judges,” Pickerill said.

NPR: Who Is Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump's Pick For The Supreme Court?

Kavanaugh still needs Senate confirmation to join the Court. Pickerill expects there will be some obstacles.

“Clearly, Democrats have already lined up,” Pickerill noted. “Even before President Trump made the announcement, it was clear that this was going to be a partisan battle. The real battle appears to be for Republicans with [Sen.] John McCain not in Washington D.C. due to his fight against brain cancer. There are two or three key Republicans that he is going to have to win over and that [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell is going to have to win over.”

Pickerill says it is possible Roe v. Wade could come before the high court if Kavanaugh is confirmed. But he says it would be much more complicated to overturn the decades-old decision.

"It would put the [Supreme] Court right back in the middle of a huge political controversy that maybe one or two members would prefer to avoid," Pickerill said.

Anthony Kennedy joined the Supreme Court in 1988.

Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" from the Illinois Associated Press and recipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.