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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

 

The Specter of Souter's replacement http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hvKtS0DgUEnOAJAWMOGjBMQEgIuA

posted by Aziz P. at Thursday, April 30, 2009 permalink View blog reactions
The news just broke an hour or so ago that Supreme Court Justice David Souter will retire. Souter was appointed by George HW Bush and proceeded to drive conservatives insane by refusing to bend to the right-wing agenda. Instead he has been what I consider a moderate voice on the court, though in general he has voted along with the liberal bloc. He was not as unpredictable as Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was, for example.

Naturally this gives President Obama an opportunity to leave his mark by appointing a judge early on in his term - and thanks to Sen. Arlen Specter's party switch a few days ago, the Republicans are in a uniquely powerless position to interfere with Obama's selection.

Unfortunately, this golden opportunity is kind of wasted, since Souter was already a member of the liberal bloc on the Court, so any pick Obama is likely to make probably won't vote much differently than Souter would have, on average. A real coup would have been for a conservative justice to be retiring, which would then allow Obama to shift the balance of power, something that President Bush was never able to achieve despite having two opportunities to appoint new justices.

Still, if Obama picks a woman justice (as is being rumoured) then there still will be a shift in perspective in the Court - the decisions that SCOTUS renders are important not just for the end result but also for the opinions and dissents therein, and a female voice in all of that will be a good thing. Since Justice O'Connor was the first woman to serve on the Court, and after her retirement was replaced by another male (Justice Alito), there's an opportunity here to bring some of that balance back. Plus, she was of an earlier generation, so Obama's hypothetical female Justice pick would probably be someone younger for whom the equal rights battles of the Sixties are history rather than experience. So we can assume that the replacement would be more, ahem, militant in some respects when it comes to womens' issues. I think that is fantastic; of course the Republicans are going to freak out accordingly.

Overall, President Obama has a chance to influence the Court in a more subtle, yet nevertheless profound, way. Let's hope he doesn't botch it and pull a Harriet Miers...



 

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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.