Progressivism and the Supreme Court. The president and his first Supreme Court nominee, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor
My closing argument for voting to reelect President Barack Obama is a familiar refrain:
The Supreme Court and the Judiciary. [...] There appears to me to be no ambiguity for progressives on the importance of the president's reelection with regard to the Supreme Court. A loss by President Obama in November would be disastrous for progressives in terms of the Court. Justice Ginsberg is a strong risk to retire. Justice Breyer is 74. If there are vacancies in the Supreme Court, President Obama will appoint much more progressive justices than will Mitt Romney, the likely Republican nominee. This issue is as clear as any before us. Add to that the appointment of judges at the appellate and trial level, for many, if not most, progressives, I would hope that this issue alone could persuade regarding the urgency of supporting the president's reelection.
Supreme Court appointments have long-lasting effects. On the current Court, Justices Scalia and Kennedy were appointed by President Reagan. Justice Thomas was appointed by President George H.W. Bush. These Justices will likely sit on the Court for more than 30 years. Policies MAY have long lasting effects. But Court appointments WILL have long lasting effects.
Any progressive who is considering not voting for President Obama need only consider this one issue. The next president will reshape a 5-4 Supreme Court. Whatever else happens in the next 4 years, nothing will have longer lasting effects. What's at risk? Women's right to control their bodies, of course. But much, much, more. In her latest column, Linda Greenhouse wrote
I’m hardly the first — in fact, this close to Election Day, I may be just about the last — to note the court’s absence from the presidential campaign. Not only haven’t the candidates talked about the court, no one has even asked them. Every time a member of the audience at the second presidential debate, the town-hall debate, got up to ask a new question, I thought that surely the court’s moment had come at last, but no. Of all the words uttered at the national party conventions, “Supreme Court” barely passed the lips of speakers at either one.
I'm not as perplexed as the esteemed Ms. Greenhouse. At least not completely. Certainly Republicans in a general election campaign do not want to discuss their radical and extreme views regarding the Constitution and the Court. (Of course, in primaries, they are all "severely conservative," especially about the Court and the Constitution.) Democratic silence on the Court is less understandable, but they do polls, and they figure out what "undecided voters" care about.
My belief is that progressives should and do care deeply about the Constitution and the Court. Nonetheless, below the fold, I'll explain again why I believe it remains the most important issue of the election.
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