As you all know, the current Supreme Court is made up of four extreme right-wing nut jobs:
- Antonin Scalia,
- Clarence Thomas,
- Samuel Alito,
- and yes, John Roberts
The Court features one swing vote, who, upon watching him in action since Justice O'Connor's retirement, is not much of a swing vote after all:
- Anthony Kennedy
Finally, there are four moderate to liberal justices who take turns championing liberal positions on a litany of constitutionally-sanguine issues:
- John Paul Stevens
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
- Stephen Breyer
- Sonia Sotomayor (who may turn out to be more liberal than I thought she would be when she was nominated)
Justice Stevens is clearly the leader of the so-called liberal faction of the Supreme Court. It is imperative not just to us liberals and the Democratic Party base, but to the future of our Country, that a strong-minded intellectual liberal be appointed to replace him. The newest Supreme Court justice will not have the benefit of seniority or Republican Party cache (Justice Stephens was appointed as a Republican) to swing Court moderate votes (and even the occasional conservative vote).
Beyond pure Constitutional considerations, it is imperative that a liberal be appointed to re-energize the understandably demoralized Democratic Party base. After two years of Democratic enabling of the Bush agenda (2007-2009) and another two years of Republican AND conservative Democratic obstructionism in the Senate (2009-Present), the need for a strong liberal nominee to unite the Democratic Party base has never been more real or pressing.
Democratic Party moderates (including many in the White House, e.g. Rahm Emanuel) believe that we need to appoint a moderate to avoid a big confirmation fight and to possibly smooth the passage of regulatory reform, jobs, and even climate change legislation. I can say without a doubt that this is the worst line of logic and the most flawed political calculation I have ever wasted my time evaluating. It has been apparent to political watchers of all stripes that the Republicans in Congress have been intent on sinking any Democratic proposals since before President Obama was sworn in as our 44th President. This includes proposals so moderate and "bi-partisan" that many Republicans would normally agree with them if not told to oppose them for political reasons. Regardless of whom President Obama selects, the Republican Party will attack that candidate as too liberal, too out of touch with the mainstream, or the like.
I have a theory that will allow us to nominate a true liberal, while at the same keeping moderate Democrats and moderate-minded independents in our corner come election time – appoint a liberal legal scholar who just happens to be male, white, and Protestant. While I am all in favor affirmative action (I even defend quotas) and affording advancement opportunities to those historically disadvantaged in our Country, I feel that the Supreme Court has become too much a diversity exhibit, and not an intellectual battlefield.
- President Ronald Reagan appointed Antonin Scalia, a conservative jurist who happened to be Catholic, to the bench to sway moderate and conservative-learning Catholic voters over to the Republican Party. President George W. Bush did something similar with Samuel Alito.
- President George H.W. Bush appointed Clarence Thomas, a conservative jurist who happened to be African-American, and managed to sway the votes of just enough Democratic Senators (afraid of being labeled as racists) to win a close confirmation battle.
- President Barack H. Obama appointed Sonya Sotomayor, a moderate-liberal jurist who happened to be both Hispanic and Catholic, to sway moderate and conservative-leaning Catholic and Hispanic voters over to the Democratic Party.
There are many more examples of cynical political calculation in the selection of nominees for our nation's highest court. Some of those have worked out for liberals (William Brennan-Catholic and Thurgood Marshall-African American), but many have not.
I think appointing a strong liberal male, white, Protestant jurist to the Supreme Court would pay homage to the great liberal Justices of the mid- 20th century, such as Earl Warren, William Douglas, and Hugo Black, while at the same time proving to many skeptical white male voters that the Democratic Party is not "just the party of minorities and women" but a party for all. Many moderate white male voters who would normally vote Democratic are scared away from doing so because they perceive the Democratic Party as spending too much time playing identity politics and not enough time governing and making tough political decisions (such as raising taxes on the wealthy to balance the federal budget or enacting a health insurance public option).
Up next: An evaluation of potential SCOTUS picks and some of my own.