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Oh, Shit

July 2nd, 2005

Sandra Day O’Connor has announced her retirement from the Supreme Court.

Everyone expected Rehnquist to be the one to step down, and while it would have been bad for Bush to get to appoint a Chief Justice, at least he would have been replacing someone who we know is a rabid right-winger; the worst that could have happened was that someone just like him could have come in; at best, Bush could have appointed someone who looked like a right-winger, only to have the new person turn left on him, as has happened several times in the past. Warren, Brennan, Blackmun, Stevens, O’Connor, kennedy and Souter all proved more liberal than was hoped for by the Republican presidents who appointed them.

Nevertheless, the idea of O’Connor leaving is a body blow. She has been a swing vote on abortion, the death penalty, and even more recently, the ten commandments ruling. Were it not for her, Rehnquist’s rabidly “anything goes” merge-church-and-state ruling would be law today. And if Bush and the GOP get their way, the replacement will be sufficiently right-wing, and wingnut conservatives around the country will start scrambling to get new test cases on every conceivable issue up before the Supreme Court so that they can change the legal landscape of the entire country.

What’s worse, Republicans have been getting much, much better at getting the people they want on the court. Justice Clarence Thomas is an excellent case in point. The replacement for Thurgood Marshall who just “happened” to be black, Thomas was supremely unqualified for the position, except in one way: politically. He was a far-right-winger, without much of a track record that could be held against him in hearings, but most importantly, he was one of those few minorities who is rabidly conservative. Any attempt to deny him his appointment could, and was, painted hypocritically and opportunistically as racist. And Thomas was also discredited by accusations of sexual harassment, remember–and the right wing fixed that by going on an all-out rampage to smear the accuser. It worked. And since then, they’ve gotten even better.

How much money you want to bet that Bush puts forward a jurist who just happens to be a woman (coincidentally, of course), but also a wingnut glad to overthrow Roe v. Wade? Or maybe Bush won’t feel to pressured to put a woman on the court, as Ginsburg is there? Somehow I doubt he’ll put forward a white male, as one of the GOP’s best ways to work the system is to put up women or minorities as bulletproof bulwarks against criticism, enabling them to accuse Democrats of racism and sexism when the objections are clearly about politics and professionalism.

If anything is for certain, it’s that the GOP is now gearing up for a fearsome battle, will try to get a right-winger on the court who will be 99% guaranteed not to go lefty on them–and that the fundamentalists will have more than just a little say in who gets nominated.

The question is: will Democrats be gearing up just as strongly? They’d better, This will be the fight of their lives. And now, I must admit that I was wrong in my opposition to the deal made between moderate Republicans and Democrats to back off from the GOP’s “nuclear option” of doing away with the filibuster. While there is no guarantee that the GOP won’t go balls-to-the-wall in trying to rekindle efforts to axe the filibuster again, it is at least in place for now, and might even make it possible for the Dems to force the Republicans into compromising, even a little.

But my hopes are not high. If the past five years have taught me anything, it is that the GOP will go to almost any length imaginable, commit almost any act, tell any number of lies, and will put on a show-of-horrors PR campaign of such dishonesty and corruption that it would make Satan’s scrotum shrink in embarrassment. They’ve shown that they will go to practically any length to get everything they want. And they won’t turn into shrinking violets now.

Then there is the fact that Americans who might not have felt their rights and liberties at stake before will not have another election before O’Connor is replaced. And Bush will probably still get to replace Rehnquist–though we can only hope that Democrats will gain back control of the Senate before that happens.

Senator Ried, Howard Dean: this is your moment of truth.

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  1. July 2nd, 2005 at 01:58 | #1

    …the GOP will go to almost any length imaginable, commit almost any act, tell any number of lies, and will put on a show-of-horrors PR campaign of such dishonesty and corruption that it would make Satan’s scrotum shrink in embarrassment.

    That’s got to be one of the best BlogD lines I’ve ever read–and I’ve read quite a few!

    Yes, this will end badly. Bush needs an opportunity like this to take everyone’s attention off what an incompetent job he’s been doing. Forcing the GOP to revive the so-called “nuclear option” would do just that.

  2. hce
    July 2nd, 2005 at 13:35 | #2

    Generally, it’s very difficult to tug the Supreme Court in an extremist direction. Recently the court has been left of moderate (slightly) in their positions on social issues. In the past it’s been down the middle or slightly right of moderate. But never to the far left or right. The mix of personalities and the arguments presented to the court balance out everything.

    Seven of the justices are Republican appointees. That’s a lot. But it’s certainly not an extremist body! That’s why so many conservative extremists are furious about the make-up of the court. But how much does that environment temper strong opinions in favor of more reasoned ones?

    Unfortunately, it’s time to make compromises. If we really want to keep Roe v. Wade, compromises may have to be made on Guantanamo, for example. It’ll be tough, but it may be necessary. All we can do is hold out hope that the court will make the justices into moderates, as it sometimes does.

    In order to overturn Roe v. Wade, Kennedy would have to change his mind as well.

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