There are many important issues to consider when deciding who is going to get our vote for President — health care policies, ending the war in Iraq, the economy (and, at present, the world’s financial markets). Ending poverty in America, improving our education system, restoring our integrity on the world stage.
But as I felt in 2000 and 2004, the most important thing to consider when deciding which candidate, and which party, to vote for comes down to two words — Supreme Court.
And some names — John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas.
Who gets appointed to the Supreme Court impacts our lives in ways both large and subtle. Every decision the justices make trickles down to change our laws and rights as we know them now — like privacy rights.
Today is the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. And whether you believe in abortion rights, are against abortion, or take a position that’s more case-by-case, if Roe gets overturned, at some point, it will take a toll on all privacy rights we now enjoy.
It took a long time for the Supreme Court to get around to ruling on matters that fall under that privacy “penumbra” (one of my favorite words from law school) — being able to live where you want, marry who you want, use birth control if you want. Those opinions all led up to Roe.
If we have a court in the next few years that decides to overturn Roe, it’s not that big a leap to suppose that the next privacy cases will be decided in a way that will chip away at those other rights, as well.
So while today is an anniversary of one of the most controversial and important Supreme Court decisions, it’s also a day to think about the presidential race in this context:
What kind of person do you want to be the next appointment to the Supreme Court?
I love Justice John Paul Stevens, but at age 87, there aren’t that many more years he has to give. And the others aren’t spring chickens, either.
Presidents are for four (or eight) years, but a Supreme Court appointment is for a lifetime. We’ve already seen the direction in which Chief Justice Roberts and his very conservative pals are steering the court – opinions with paternalistic language and rulings against women who have clearly been discriminated against that outrageously favor the offending employers.
No candidate wants to be tied to any litmus test about the types of people they will consider for Supreme Court appointments. But I think it’s a safe bet that by listening to candidates’ words and reflecting on their actions and their lives, we can get a good sense of whether they’re more likely to appoint someone like the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
I like my constitutional rights the way they are right now — or more accurately, the way they were a few years ago — and I’d like to keep them for PunditGirl, as well.