Monday, 30 June 2008

McCain Win Would Mean Shift the Supreme Court Sharply Conservative

Among a whole raft of issues vitally at stake in this election (the environment, the economy, the war - oh my) it is also worth considering the role that the next President will play in shaping the nature of the Supreme Court for a generation to come. Right now the Court is finely balanced, with a narrow Conservative majority that has succeeded in rolling back constitutional protections in dozens of key areas. Take, for just one egregious example, the dreadful example of the Lily Ledbetter case. Ms Ledbetter was a longtime employee of the Goodyear tire company who was routinely paid significantly less than any male colleague in the same role. Ledbetter won a discrimination case based on the clear presentation of facts and was awarded damages by a jury. The Supreme Court, however, led by Bush appointees Roberts and Alito, ruled that she had waited too long to file her discrimination suit and set a short deadline for such claims to be raised - despite the fact that employees often find it difficult or impossible to uncover evidence of pay discrimination until it is too late. (Question, do you know how much your colleagues earn compared to you?)

With a McCain victory, this new conservative bent of the Supreme Court would almost certainly be even stronger - especially considering that the judges likely to retire are all in the liberal minority.

The next appointment to the court will almost surely fill the seat now held by one of the court's liberals, whose average age at the beginning of next October's term will be 75. For Obama, any initial appointment would likely replace one liberal with another, albeit with a younger and perhaps more outgoing advocate for his views of the court's role.

But a McCain victory could give the conservative bloc a clear-cut majority for years to come. President Bush has provided the model with his nominations of Roberts, to continue the conservative legacy of former chief justice William H. Rehnquist, and Samuel A. Alito Jr., to replace the former justice found most frequently in the middle, Sandra Day O'Connor.

On the other hand, with an Obama victory we would be chosing a President with an exceptionally strong understanding of our Constitutional rights and values (remember, he was a civil rights lawyer and constitutional law professor for many years in Chicago) and has a consistent track record on civil liberties.

I don't know about you, but if I weren't already excited about his personal qualities and his sound policy proposals, that alone would be enough to make me excited about voting for him.

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