The most obvious reason why Trump can’t be trusted is that he has a long history of lying and deception. As Conor Friedersdorf recounts, Trump’s first two wives, business partners, employees, and contractors all learned the painful lesson that Trump’s word means nothing whenever it becomes convenient for him to break it. Traditional Republicans who care about the Court and originalism have no reason to expect better treatment at his hands. It’s not as if they’re a group he particularly likes, to put it mildly.
Trump himself has stated that the list is merely a “guide” and not binding. Even in his most recent comments to Hewitt, Trump avoided saying that he will actually stick to the list, but merely that he will appoint someone with “very similar principles” to those on the list. Trump’s view of what qualifies as “very similar” could easily be different from Hewitt’s or anyone else’s.
Moreover, if Trump wins, the GOP is likely to shift in the direction of his authoritarian nationalist platform for reasons that go beyond his personal proclivities. After all, such a triumph would lead many politicians and activists to conclude that Trump has found an effective formula for political success. And such success breeds imitation by other ambitious politicians. As a general rule, effective politicians and parties prioritize the pursuit of power over the defense of principle. Those who do not rarely get into power, or stay there for very long if they do.
It is still possible that Trump might appoint an originalist justice at some point, if it somehow might advance his short-term political interests. But, in the long run, his agenda is deeply inimical to originalism and constitutional limitations on government power. In sum, Trump can’t be trusted on judges – and not just because he is generally untrustworthy. The problem is actually much worse than that.
There is a wide range of reasons to oppose Trump, and to conclude that even Hillary Clinton is a lesser evil by comparison. The issue of judicial appointments does not cut the other way. If you care about the long-run future of originalism and limited government, is is actually yet another reason to be #NeverTrump.