During President George W. Bush’s first term in office, a group informally dubbed “the four horsemen” started working together to help Bush push through federal court nominees who would remake the judiciary in a way the conservative movement had long hoped for.
By the time Bush was tasked with finding a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor in 2005, the “four horsemen” were ready to be what U.S. News &World Report called “the glue for a fragile conservative coalition, from the religious right to the business lobby” in the campaign to confirm Bush’s ultimate nominee for the spot, Samuel Alito, and his pick for chief justice, John Roberts.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Sen. Trent Lott, the former Senate majority leader, had asked former George H.W. Bush official C. Boyden Gray to assemble a team to prepare for any potential Supreme Court battles. The “horsemen” ended up including a group that held influence in the disparate parts of the Republican coalition: Gray; Ed Meese, the Reagan attorney general who had led the unsuccessful push to put ultraconservative Judge Robert Bork on the high court; Leonard Leo, an official with the conservative Federalist Society, which had been working for decades to raise up a generation of lawyers and jurists to push an “originalist” reading of the Constitution; and Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, a right-wing legal group founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.
This coalition’s success at achieving the nominations and confirmations of Roberts and Alito — not to mention scores of lower-court judges — has paid off. The Roberts Court has been tremendously friendly to corporations, often at the expense of workers and consumers, while Roberts and Alito have been what Southern Baptist leader Richard Land has called “the gifts that keep on giving” to the Religious Right.
Today, as the White House and the GOP-dominated Senate face off over the unexpected Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the same coalition of Religious Right and business interests are coming together to mount a public pressure campaign to convince senators to block whomever President Obama nominates.