It has been reported recently that Justice John Paul Stevens will likely retire from the Supreme Court this year, paving the way for a second Obama appointment. This has prompted the question: Will Republicans filibuster Obama’s next nominee? The answer should be an emphatic no, no matter how liberal the nominee may turn out to be.
Sure, it may be tempting to fight a highly publicized Supreme Court battle over an ultraliberal nominee during an election year. But we need to think bigger picture: Justice Stevens is the leader of the liberal faction on the Supreme Court. Replacing him with another liberal, which Obama will most certainly manage to do, will not change the status quo — just as replacing the liberal Souter with the similarly liberal Sotomayor did not change the status quo.
We cannot waste our energy on fighting a liberal replacement for the liberal Stevens because it is within the realm of possibility that we will have to fight an important battle over a Supreme Court nominee who will change the status quo. Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative, is 74 years old. Justice Clarence Thomas, another conservative, will turn 62 in a couple of months. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is moderate to conservative, will turn 74 this summer.
If any of these three justices retire during Obama’s presidency, it will give President Obama the opportunity to decisively alter the Supreme Court’s direction. Don’t think he won’t try to take that opportunity. Souter’s retirement did not give him that opportunity because Souter was basically liberal. Stevens’ impending retirement is similar. Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy — those are the battles we have to be prepared to fight. Those are the battles that, if lost, will allow President Obama to reshape the Supreme Court in his leftist image.
No matter how hard we fight, we will not deter President Obama and Senate Democrats from eventually securing a liberal appointment to replace the liberal John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. If we knock out one liberal nominee, he will just nominate another, and another after that. We must save our energy and the patience of the American public for the Supreme Court battles that will actually matter.