Choosing a New Justice

justiceEverybody is second-guessing President Obama about his choice for Justice Antonin Scalia’s replacement. And he hasn’t even hinted at what that choice will be.

Will he send a “progressive” to the Senate for confirmation, knowing Mitch McConnell will be certain to bar the door?

Or will he settle for a “moderate,” hoping the Republicans – enough of them anyway – will change their minds?

If he decides on a “progressive,” he will have a ready-made election issue, one that might get the Democratic base riled up and trigger a massive turnout.

If he selects a “moderate,” he might get enough Republicans to relent and ensure a more reasonable future for the court – and the country.

What would you  do?

Supreme Court appointments weren’t always this contentious. There was a time when justices were appointed based on their merit, not their political bias.

Justice Harry Blackmun, who wrote the majority opinion for Roe v. Wade, for example, was appointed by Richard Nixon. Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed by Ronald Reagan.

But those days are long gone. Major decisions are now based on politics, rather than the law of the land.

Personally, I think the President should pick the individual who is best qualified for the job, not a die-hard progressive whose qualifications can be questioned. But that might have unforeseen consequences. If the new justice turned out to be a conservative, the progress of the past century would be in danger.

If President Obama selects a proven progressive, he has to be careful not to appear blatantly political. Voters might respond by rejecting the Democrats in November. I don’t think the majority of Americans are in the mood for that kind of defiant divisiveness.

The job of the Supreme Court is to interpret the Constitution (in the context of societal evolution) – not legislate. Justices should not try to impose religious dogma or political ideology on our society.

Lady Justice, after all, is depicted as blindfolded, unaware of such factors as skin color, gender, personal wealth or influential connections. And politics.

If only America’s highest court could be like that.

Click for likely nominees.