Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Barack Obama clearly isn’t interested in putting liberals on Supreme Court

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When we have presidential candidates run for office, we have serious debates about whether they drink beer or wear flag pins or were born in the United States, even after they produce a birth certificate.

The one thing we stick our fingers in our ears on, yet is more valuable than most questions we ask of them is “what kind of people will you appoint to the Supreme Court?”

Liberals who voted for Barack Obama in 2008 wanted one major thing from their candidate of choice: more liberals on the bench. Not just on the Supreme Court, but especially on the Supreme Court.

Assuming Elena Kagan gets approved, she will mark the second straight moderate on the court appointed by this president, and the second one not likely to leave a significant mark within the court structure.

By all objective standards, the Supreme Court — when Barack Obama took the oath of office — was the most conservative court in our nation’s history. 7 of the 9 justices picked by Republicans. All the most significant justices on the court but one were sharply conservative, and the one who wasn’t was still picked by a Republican.

If Kagan gets to the court, will Barack Obama have made the court more liberal?

Quite a few on the left say “no.” Quite a few on the right might outwardly say “yes,” but secretly are fist-pumping the air around them. Replacing the one judge on the “left” with the loudest voice with Kagan, who was approved by 31 Republicans for solicitor general.

The one thing Kagan has going for her for those on the left is that she is 50. Those on the right who scream about how young she is forget that John Roberts was 50 when he was appointed to the bench — and Chief Justice, too. Those on the right who scream about how little judicial background she has forget about Clarence Thomas’ lack of record. And Kagan will prove to be much smarter on the court than Thomas can ever dream of being.

If Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were replacing Antonin Scalia and Thomas, you could make an argument that Obama was shifting the court to the left. But Souter was a weak voice from the “left” and John Paul Stevens was the ringleader of those on the “left” on the court.

“Left” is in quote marks since no current justice is as far to the left as Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Sam Alito.

Even if Obama remains president until January 20, 2017, he only has a limited opportunity to try and restore some balance to the court. Those who feared that Obama would put radical leftists on the court can sleep soundly. Based on the first two nominations, Obama has no intention of putting someone on the court significantly to the left and no one with a loud voice on the court.

Republicans don’t worry about putting whoever they want on the court, they don’t worry about hearings or confrontations. If they did worry, you wouldn’t know the names of Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia (or RATS in some liberal circles).

Why President Obama is worried about backlash from his Supreme Court picks is something for professional psychologists to analyze. We saw the insanity surrounding Sonia Sotomayor; imagine if Obama had submitted a true liberal.

Obama would have to submit three true liberals to the court just to fight back against the conservative push currently dominating the court. And he’s afraid to nominate one.

Don’t think this gets easier. As presidential administrations increase in time, they lose the power to get someone through the court. And Democratic presidents apparently need more help than Republicans presidents do.

Liberals may be counting on several conservatives on the court resigning or dropping dead, but that isn’t a political strategy. And it doesn’t help that the president who they think is on their side doesn’t have the same worries and concerns about the Supreme Court as they do.

Perhaps Sotomayor and Kagan can eventually step up as stronger voices on the court. But Roberts is going to be Chief Justice for a long time, and the top anti-conservative voice on the court is leaving. Short-term, there is no replacement. Unfortunately, this will be part of the legacy of President Barack Obama.


Written by democracysoup

May 14, 2010 at 11:28 am

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