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Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate majority leader, has served more than three decades in Congress. In all that time, his “most consequential decision,” as he said recently, was to block confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, Barack Obama’s moderate choice for the Supreme Court.

Mr. McConnell pulled off the great Supreme Court heist. As a result of his obstructionism throughout almost all of 2016, Republicans stole a seat from the Democrats. Donald Trump appointed conservative Neil Gorsuch, whose vote this week was critical to the Court’s upholding of the President’s travel ban.

The appointment of Justice Gorsuch began to tilt the court’s balance to the right. The clincher came with Wednesday’s announcement that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a swing voter, is retiring; the pending Trump replacement is sure to be of staunch rightward views. The upshot is a nightmare turned into reality for American progressives. Republicans now stand to have firm control of the court for years, possibly a generation.

Mr. Trump has received a power surge. His dominance over the executive and legislative branches of the government will now extend to the judicial branch. Defences against his racial and religious bigotry are falling. Endangered are abortion rights, immigrant protections, environmental protections, labour rights, LGBTQ rights and more.

Unlike its Canadian counterpart, the U.S. Supreme Court is shamefully politicized, decisions driven as much by party line and ideology as anything else. The court’s confirmation process (Canada has none to speak of) is subject to the type of outright abuse that Mr. McConnell committed.

While the Canadian retirement age for justices is 75, the U.S. court has the further drawback of appointments that endure for life. Prodigious power will be wielded by Mr. Trump’s appointees for as much as 20 or 30 years or more. He is filling the lower courts with right-wing appointments. For the top bench, the President may get more appointments. While future governments can reverse many of his legislative actions, Supreme Court decisions will secure him a lasting legacy.

Tensions across a country rocked by Mr. Trump’s rule will escalate with his naming of a new pro-life justice. It’s kerosene on the abortion-debate fire. Democrats are readying for a fierce confrontation. Senator Elizabeth Warren vowed never to let Republicans “overturn Roe v. Wade and hand the rights of the American people back over to the right-wing interests & billionaires. We’re not going back. Not now, not ever. The fight of our lives is here ….”

Fight she might, but hopes are slim. The Democrats want to delay confirmation of a new appointment until after November’s midterm elections, when the balance of power in the Senate could switch over to them. They want Mr. McConnell to be consistent and apply the same principle he did in the case of Merrick Garland. No appointment in an election year.

But that’s not going to happen. Hypocrisy and Mr. McConnell are longtime roommates. He is promising to get Senate confirmation of the new nomination before the fall elections. While it’s possible a couple of moderate Republicans could vote against a pro-life nominee, it’s also possible that some Democrats, fearing their political fate in conservative-leaning states, could vote to uphold the appointment.

On the hustings, Mr. Trump could well gain momentum. Nothing gets the right-wing base more fired up than an abortion-rights fight or the prospect of a new hardliner for the Supreme Court.

Just last week, while being pummelled for his remorseless family separations policy at the Mexican border, Mr. Trump appeared to be in a downward spiral. But he then scored a big victory on the travel ban vote. In Republican primary elections, Trump-endorsed candidates did very well. Then came Justice Kennedy’s surprise decision to retire. Democrats had been imploring him to hold off on leaving.

The President will now be emboldened to stick with his tumultuous radical agenda, one that includes a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose henchmen interfered in the 2016 election, who moved on Ukraine, who supports Syria’s ghastly dictator.

Disarray turns Mr. Trump’s way. The Democrats, winners of the popular vote in six of the last seven presidential elections, are losing where it counts. Mitch McConnell, who Mr. Trump once regarded as a chump, is a big reason for the damage. He knows where real power lies. His work is always vulnerable, as he notes, to change by the other party. “But they won’t change these judges for a generation.”

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