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
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
June 2: Rise of Religious “Nones” a Mixed Blessing for Democrats
Since I’m always standing at the intersection of politics and religion, I’m always interested in fresh data on the subject, and wrote some up at New York:
One of the big predictions in American politics lately, of infinite comfort to embattled progressives, is that the increasing number of religiously non-affiliated Americans, particularly among younger generations, will spur a steady leftward drift. Perhaps that will mean, we are told, that Democrats will be able to build their elusive permanent majority on the grounds of abandoned houses of worship. Or perhaps, some hope, the religious roots of today’s Republican extremism will begin to wither away, allowing American conservatives to resemble their less intemperate distant cousins in other advanced democracies, ending the culture wars.
Both propositions may be true. But it’s a mistake to treat so-called nones as an undifferentiated secularist mass, as Eastern Illinois University political scientist Ryan Burge explains with some fresh data. He notes that “in 2022, 6% of folks were atheists, 6% were agnostics, and another 23% were nothing in particular.” This large bloc of “nothing in particular” voters may lean left, all other things being equal, but they tend to be as uninterested in politics as in religion, making them a less than ideal party constituency. He explains:
“To put this in context, in 2020 there were nearly as many nothing in particulars who said that they voted for Trump as there were atheists who said that they voted for Biden.
“While atheists are the most politically active group in the United States in terms of things like donating money and working for a campaign, the nothing in particulars are on another planet entirely.
“They were half as likely to donate money to a candidate compared to atheists. They were half as likely to put up a political sign. They were less than half as likely to contact a public official.
“This all points to the same conclusion: they don’t vote in high numbers. So, while there may be a whole bunch of nothing in particulars, that may not translate to electoral victories.”
As Burge mentioned, however, there is a “none” constituency that leans much more strongly left and is very engaged politically — indeed, significantly more engaged than the white evangelicals we’re always hearing about. That would be atheists. In a separate piece, he gets into the numbers:
“The group that is most likely to contact a public official? Atheists.
“The group that puts up political signs at the highest rates? Atheists.
“HALF of atheists report giving to a candidate or campaign in the 2020 presidential election cycle.
“The average atheist is about 65% more politically engaged than the average American.”
And as Thomas Edsall points out in a broader New York Times column on demographic voting patterns, atheists really are a solid Democratic constituency, supporting Biden over Trump in 2020 by an incredible 87 to 9 percent margin. It’s worth noting that the less adamant siblings of the emphatically godless, agnostics, also went for Biden by an 80 to 17 percent margin and are more engaged than “nothing in particulars” as well.
So should Democrats target and identify with atheists? It’s risky. Despite the trends, there are still three times as many white evangelicals as atheists in the voting population. And there are a lot more religious folk of different varieties, some of whom have robust Democratic voting minorities or even majorities who probably wouldn’t be too happy with their party showing disdain for religion entirely. There’s also a hunt-where-the-ducks-fly factor: If atheists and agnostics already participate in politics and lean strongly toward Democrats, how much attention do they really need? There’s a reason that politicians, whatever their actual religious beliefs or practices, overwhelmingly report some religious identity. Congress lost its one professed atheist when California representative Pete Stark lost a Democratic primary in 2012; the only professed agnostic in Congress is Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, whose political future isn’t looking great.
It’s a complicated picture. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat argues that American liberalism’s increasing identification with secularism is keeping a lot of conservative Christians from politically expressing their reservations about Donald Trump. And religious people beyond the ranks of conservative faith communities may feel cross-pressured if Democratic politicians begin to reflect the liberal intelligentsia’s general assumption that religion is little more than a reactionary habit rooted in superstition and doomed to eventual extinction.
Perhaps it makes more sense for Democratic atheists and agnostics to spend time educating and mobilizing the “nothing in particular” Americans who already outnumber white evangelicals and ought to be concerned about how they’ll be treated if a Christian-nationalist Gilead arises. Only then can “nones” become the salvation for the Democratic Party.