Supreme Court’s Rightward Lurch Will Motivate Right in 2008

The Supreme Court’s past term made clear its lurch to the right following the appointment of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, as outlined in a recent People For the American Way Foundation report. Awareness of this fact has spread from legal analysts to the general public: A new Washington Post/ABC poll shows less than half of Americans think the Court is balanced, and 31 percent think it’s too conservative – up from 19 percent two years ago. This was the context for Sen. Chuck Schumer’s speech at the American Constitution Society last week. “There is no doubt we were hoodwinked,” he said of the confirmation hearings.

Nevertheless, right-wing activists maintain that, despite their victory in confirming Roberts and Alito and the obvious rightward tilt of the last term, the Supreme Court remains a “bastion” of liberalism. “After decades of liberal judicial activism on so many issues, the court’s position remains decidedly on the left,” said Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Gary Bauer claimed that “the liberals fully understand the role the federal judiciary has assumed in recent decades, and they are prepared to do whatever it takes to preserve this bastion of raw political power. … What is ‘out of balance’ is the view that judges are little more than political hacks who must pass a liberal ideological litmus test.”

But while Bauer asserted that “our courts have become active participants in the cultural war, a strategic ally of the Left, helping to advance and legitimize a radical agenda that could not pass any legislature” – a frequent claim of the Right, contradicted by the fact that 7 out of 9 justices were appointed by Republicans, along with the majority of appellate judges – Rick Scarborough made clear that the goal is not a “balls and strikes” Court, but to create a Court that takes the Right’s side in that “cultural war”:

And pastors want to know why we should be involved? When Senator Schumer laments the confirmation of Associate Justice Alito, he is lamenting the fact that abortion and sexual license may be limited by a conservative Court. I can only pray he is correct in his lament.

And this cause is carrying into the next presidential election. Far-right activist John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, wrote that 2008 “should be all about the Supreme Court for social conservatives”:

In the final analysis, the 2008 election presents us with the most significant window of opportunity to change the direction of the court (and hence the culture war) that will occur over the next 15-25 years.

There are really only two equally important questions conservatives should ask about the upcoming presidential election: 1) Which candidate is most likely to pick the best judges AND 2) Which candidate is most likely to win both the primary and general elections. Every other issue is just window dressing.