I’ve been doing this blogging thing long enough that I’m in the middle of my third presidential election, and I’m beginning to see that certain memes start to pop up at certain stages in those campaigns. For instance, as October and the first Monday of that month approaches, we are reminded of the fact that far beyond the legacy of four or eight years of a president are at stake thanks to three little words: The Supreme Court.
Ronald Reagan has been dead for lo these many years, and George H.W. Bush has long since gone back to Houston, but their work lives on in their appointments to the Court, including Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. George W. Bush’s choice for Chief Justice, John Roberts, is a comparatively young man (he’s younger than me) and could be on the Court for another twenty-five years. And as we have all learned, for good or ill, the Court and its rulings can have a transformational impact on every part of our lives.
Barack Obama has already appointed two new justices; Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor. Time, tide, and the actuarial tables predict that he will get to appoint a few more if he’s re-elected. And that has some on the right understandably attentive.
“The potential impact of the next president on the Supreme Court is immense,” said Carrie Severino, the chief counsel and policy director at the Judicial Crisis Network, a right-of-center advocacy group. “There could easily be three nominations during the next term. … Most people expect there to be at least one vacancy.”
She said if Obama were re-elected and got three more high court nominations, “that would put him in the position of having nominated the majority of the justices on the Supreme Court. That’s an incredible influence over the way the court shapes American society.”
Keep that in mind the next time you hear about a survey scoring the “likeability” of a presidential candidate; sure, you can think about who you’d like to have a beer with, but your drinking buddy could also be the one who picks the folks who decide the future of a lot of important issues such as campaign finance, marriage equality, and reproductive rights for the next fifty years.
Those three little words pack a hell of a punch.