Behind the battles over party unity, Republicans are keeping their eyes firmly on the Supreme Court. Stinerman over at Swords Crossed has a post that should be required reading for anyone who supports a woman’s right to choose, separation of church and state, and workers rights:
A common argument for McCain that has been used to shore up his support among the base is that he will appoint strict constructionist judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia while Obama will try to pack the court with far left ideologues. That, in and of itself, is a good enough reason to pull the lever for McCain, regardless of what views he may have on other issues. Indeed, a McCain presidency could finally be what overturns Roe v. Wade.
Translation: Issues aside, the question of who sits on the supreme court by itself is a strong reason to vote one way or the other. Stinerman then goes on to discuss the likelihood of a changed supreme court under McCain:
First, let us assume that McCain does win the presidency. Barring any sort of miracle at the polls, he will be facing a very hostile Democrat-controlled Senate which is currently projected (via 538 ) to hold about 56 seats (including Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman). Does anyone really believe that the Senate will confirm someone who the President purports to be the ideological equivalent to Antonin Scalia? The Democrats could afford up to 16 defections and still hold the line via a filibuster against any so-called “extremist” judge. As I like to say, “not bloody likely”.
I disagree here. Case in point, Alito:
Debate on the nomination began in the full Senate on January 25. After a failed filibuster attempt by Senator John Kerry, on January 31, the Senate confirmed Alito to the Supreme Court by a vote of 58-42, with four Democratic senators voting for confirmation and one Republican and an Independent voting against. Alito’s confirmation vote was the second lowest on the current court, where he is surpassed only by Clarence Thomas who was confirmed 52-48.
Taking into account called blue-dog Democrats, Lieberman Democrats, and other flavors of Senator who cave by reflex in the face of the Republican PR machine, I’d say there is a fair chance a Republican President would indeed be able to push through a conservative judge. If liberal judges are the most likely to retire, then I think the only way to truly safeguard against a conservative replacement is to ensure as much public pressure as possible is built up in opposition. That means a decisive Democratic majority (one where Lieberman is irrelevant and powerless), and a Democratic President.
A close Senate where Lieberman still holds power matched with a Republican Senator who is fiercely anti-choice is not a recipe for an unchanging Supreme Court.