I don’t want to start the fur flying with my colleague The Moose, who did a post earlier today explaining why he’d unenthusiastically vote to confirm John Roberts Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. But I definitely disagree; like him, speaking for myself only. To compress The Moose’s argument somewhat, he suggested that Roberts is acceptable because (a) he’s not a crazy person, and (b) Bush won the election, and presidents of either party deserve some benefit of the doubt on judicial nominations.I, too, am happy that Roberts appears to have ruled out paid-up-membership-in-good-standing in the Constitution In Exile movement. But Lord-a-Mighty, I hope we haven’t gotten to the point where the only disqualifier for a conservative Chief Justice would be if he or she openly and defiantly declares that most of the works of all three branches of the federal government over much of the twentieth century violates the Original Intent of the Founders, and must be overturned by judicial fiat.The fruits-of-victory argument is probably more important to the case for accepting Roberts, since it applies to the Democratic presidents of the future as well as to Bush.But I would respond that Bush has already deeply undermined that tradition by (1) refusing any serious bipartisan consultation over his judicial nominations, in sharp contrast with his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who almost certainly took a few names off his potential SCOTUS list to avoid a confirmation fight; and (2) engaging in an open, high-stakes campaign to reshape the Court and U.S. constitutional law through his appointments, with Roberts serving as the linchpin if not the ultimate tipping point.In other words, we are at a moment in which Supreme Court appointments represent a lunge towards Eternal Life for this wounded presidency. If stopping that lunge means sacrificing routine Republican votes for future Democratic SCOTUS nominations, so be it.And that, I would contend, is the most compelling argument against the final and best rationale for not worrying about Roberts: he’s just a one-for-one replacement for Rehnquist, and thus does not change the balance on the Court.That’s true, but Roberts is 50 years old, and since, as I profoundly hope, 50 is the new 30, he therefore represents in all probability at least a thirty-year extension of Rehnquist’s conservative and occasionally counter-revolutionary jurisprudence. Think about this: for the next seven or so presidential terms, SCOTUS will be “the Roberts Court.” This is not something progressives should minimize according to tactical considerations of the nomination in this moment’s political struggles.I do agree that the next presidential nomination to replace Justice O’Connor is even bigger in terms of shaping the future Court. And I don’t think Democrats should be forced to walk the plank to oppose or filibuster Roberts, who will probably get universal support from Senate Republicans.But given this nominee’s enduring significance; the Bush administration’s clear right-wing judicial-activist intentions; and the need to make it abundantly clear that the next nominee, if he or she is to the right of O’Conner, will face obstruction sho nuff–a robust Democratic vote against Roberts would be a very good thing.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
Sifting through more data from the 2022 midterms, there was one indicator that surprised and concerned me, so I wrote about it at New York:
As analysts pick over the results of the 2022 midterm elections, there have been a lot of mixed messages for Democrats. Yes, they performed better than you might have expected for the party controlling the White House, especially considering the president has underwater job-approval ratings. And yes, Democrats benefited from an unusually robust performance among young voters, who often don’t participate in midterm elections. But at the same time, Democrats didn’t significantly improve their performance among other key demographics, notably Black, Asian American, and Latino voters. As my colleague Eric Levitz observed, Democrats remain dangerously dependent on white college-educated voters who remain sympathetic to Republican economic messages.
Worse yet for Democrats, there is growing evidence that their single most loyal demographic group, African Americans, was underenthused in 2022. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn looked at the preliminary numbers and sounded the alarm:
“Georgia and North Carolina are two of the states where voters indicate their race when they register to vote, offering an unusually clear look at the racial composition of the electorate. In both states — along with Louisiana — the Black share of the electorate fell to its lowest levels since 2006.
“In all three states, the turnout rate among Black voters was far lower than among white voters. In North Carolina, for example, 43 percent of Black registered voters turned out, compared with 59 percent of white registered voters — roughly doubling the difference from 2018 and tripling the racial turnout gap from 2014.
“While similarly conclusive data is not available elsewhere so far, the turnout by county suggests that a relatively weak Black turnout was a national phenomenon.”
Low Black turnout in Georgia and North Carolina is especially significant because Black candidates (Senate candidate Cheri Beasley in North Carolina and Senate Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in Georgia) headed up the Democratic tickets in both states. It’s not like the old days when Black voters were being urged to support white conservative Democrats to thwart even more conservative Republicans.
If the signs of relatively low Black turnout in 2022 are accurate and representative, what do they mean? Cohn offers some possible explanations:
“Still, relatively low Black turnout is becoming an unmistakable trend in the post-Obama era, raising important — if yet unanswered — questions about how Democrats can revitalize the enthusiasm of their strongest group of supporters.
“Is it simply a return to the pre-Obama norm? Is it yet another symptom of eroding Democratic strength among working-class voters of all races and ethnicities? Or is it a byproduct of something more specific to Black voters, like the rise of a more progressive, activist — and pessimistic — Black left that doubts whether the Democratic Party can combat white supremacy?”
It’s possible to overinterpret Black voter trends. According to exit polls, the Democratic share of Black voters dropped from 90 percent in 2018 to 87 percent in 2020 and 86 percent in 2022 — not exactly a deep plunge. And some of the negative turnout trends may be attributable to voter-suppression efforts in Republican-controlled states rather than Black voter disaffection with Democrats. In Georgia, moreover, there are encouraging signs about Black early voting turnout in the U.S. Senate general election runoff contest between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker.
But any way you cut it, Democrats have both a practical and a moral responsibility to boost Black voter participation in elections going forward. In particular, President Joe Biden, whose nomination and election in 2020 depended heavily on Black support, should devote a lot of attention to rekindling the fires of affection in this critical segment of the electorate.