Friday, July 01, 2005

O'Connor's Retirement and the Dems' Response

Justice O'Connor has announced her retirement which, by being the first of the expected resignations, complicates the Democrats' strategy for how to respond. Had Rehnquist left first, the Dems would have been smart to give way to whomever Bush wanted to nominate. Replacing a conservative with a conservative is to be expected and doesn't change the ideological balance on the Court (even if the nominee is more conservative than Rehnquist - we're only talking a matter of degrees). They couldn't reasonably make the argument that a conservative president should replace a conservative with a moderate. And, by not fighting Rehnquist's replacement, the Dems would also have gained significant good will among the public (through the media), which would have helped make a credible case for fighting later nominees.

But now they have to hold the line by insisting on a (relative) moderate to replace O'Connor. That means they have to fight right off the bat.

One could argue that the Democrats could still give way on the first Bush Supreme Court nominee, no matter who it is or whom it replaces (within reason - they'd have to fight for Stevens' slot), and then fight to ensure that the second nominee is a moderate. That way, the balance is the same in the long run. But it doesn't quite work like that. O'Connor's replacement will be seen as just that - a replacement for O'Connor, just as Rehnquist's replacement will be viewed as a replacement for him. People aren't likely to approach this from the aggregate perspective.

So Democrats are going to have a hard time not fighting this tooth-and-nail. Batten down the hatches!


At 6:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good comments. But, I do not agree with most of them. People sure have a lot of time on their hands.


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