Federal Courts Stitch Conservatives Together

22 03 2008

In the coming months, expect John McCain to discuss a topic so dear to many conservatives: nominations to the federal bench.

Inexplicably, many Democratic leaning voters fail to understand the role judicial nominations play in the Republican politics. But make no mistake, whenever a candidate for national office says his role model for judges are Thomas and Scalia as then-governor George W. Bush did during his 2000 presidential run and Rudy Guiliani did during his ill-fated campaign, he is signaling his support for certain conservative vision of the federal bench. No other issue among conservatives brings together so-called values voters, pro-business conservatives, limited government types, federalists, national security minded and pro-executive power conservatives quite like judicial nominations. Its not an issue that’s equally important to each of these groups, but its an issue that John McCain will likely use on the stump to keep the Reagan coalition stitched together.

In fact, according to ABC News Coorespondent John Tapper, McCain told a packed rally in Georgia that:

“I want to assure you that one of the great accomplishments of President Bush is we now have judges on the United States Supreme Court and judges who strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States of America,” he said at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. “Two of the best of those are Judges Alito and Roberts. You can be very proud of them. My friends, I want to tell you, I will try to find clones of Alito and Roberts. I will try to find people just like them.”

Progressives who may be at a lost as to why the federal courts are such an import issue to the right need to consider recent history. LA Times National Legal Corespondent David Savage captured the conservative fervor over the federal bench quite well.

“This issue unites the base,” said Curt Levey, executive director of the Committee for Justice, a group that lobbies for Bush’s judicial nominees. “It serves as a stand-in for the culture wars: religion, abortion, gay marriage and the coddling of criminals.”

Nothing irritates conservatives more, he said, than having unelected judges decide politically charged issues that some believe should be left to voters and legislators. “Conservatives tend to blame judges for the left’s success in the culture war,” Levey said.

Thus, its not hard to see how the label “activist judges” took hold so quickly and firmly in the minds of so many conservative and even moderate voters. At root, this coalition is really a bunch of anti-New Dealers that joined the backlash against the civil rights and women’s movement and who believe the U.S. Constitution’s essential meaning was frozen in time circa the late 18th Century.

While its true that there is no such thing as a biased-free judge, its still unacceptable to appoint immoderate judges push their own ideological agenda in the courts. Through their decisions such judges often set poor precedent for other courts to follow or are at odds with the spirit laws enacted by Congress. How judges interpret the law actually does matter because for most people the court system is the last resort.

Nominations to the federal bench have a real impact on people’s lives. Judges, including justices on the Supreme Court, can opt to weaken or undermine your right to sue your employer for pay discrimination, the right to a quality education, your right to not have the government listen in on your phone calls, or regulate an industries indifferent to the environmental impact of their operations.

Alliance for Justice, a progressive advocacy group, has put together a series of videos illustrating the influence the conservative right has had on federal courts during the last two decades.

The first video summarizes how certain conservative activists have used the judiciary to diminish federal authority to help ensure we have a responsibly regulated economy and that even our right to privacy is protected.

The second video is about two cases Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber and Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, a classic pay discrimination case and a school integration case not unlike Brown v. Board of Ed, respectively. The majority opinion in the Ledbetter case was written by Justice Alito and the Parents Involved majority opinion was written by Justice Roberts, the very same justices that Sen. McCain claims he wants to “clone.” Both of whom were George W. Bush appointees.

Watch it.


Watch it.


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