Will Obama move Supreme Court to the left?

It won’t be easy, and perhaps the administration will have to be pushed to promote a truly liberal candidate (as opposed to another down-the-middle choice), but a change of direction is truly possible for the first time in decades.

In the last year, the Obama administration has fought harder on important issues, but the GOP knows that changes to the court will have an impact for years.  And they’re very good at running circles around Democrats on court nominees.

With so much at stake on issues like Social Security, and now the Supreme Court, Obama is going to need to be a much tougher negotiator than he was in the first term.  Here’s hoping. As the article points out, Ginsburg is a possibility, but we like her.  Kennedy is a swing vote, though Scalia would be a joy to replace.


Supreme Court via Shutterstock

The justice who is most likely to leave the court during the second Obama presidency is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a liberal who at age 79 is birdlike and frail, but hardly slacking off from her prodigious work habits. More worrisome to conservatives is Justice Antonin Scalia, tied with Justice Clarence Thomas as the most conservative judge on the high court (and a self-described “best buddy” with Ginsburg) who at 76 has discussed retirement recently with various reporters.“Of course I’ll retire,” he told CNN’s Piers Morgan in July. “Certainly I’ll retire when I — when I think I’m — I’m not doing as good a job as I used to. That — that will make me feel very bad.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy is also 76. The court’s swing vote has infuriated and enthused conservatives in practically equal measure since Ronald Reagan nominated him in 1987 to replace his failed first choice, ultraconservative Robert Bork. Kennedy has sided with the conservatives in many important cases recently, including his surprising (to me, anyway), vote against Obamacare this summer.

An American in Paris, France. BA in History & Political Science from Ohio State. Provided consulting services to US software startups, launching new business overseas that have both IPO’d and sold to well-known global software companies. Currently launching a new cloud-based startup. Full bio here.

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33 Responses to “Will Obama move Supreme Court to the left?”

  1. The Supreme Cout has leaned right since “Law and Order” Nixon placed his Gang of Four on the Court. We are far from having any liberals on the Court of any shade since Thurgood Mashall retired in 1991, and George Bush put Uncle Clarence Thomas in that seat.

  2. How is Bill Clinton prohibited from serving on the Supreme Court? William Howard Taft was Chief Justice in the 1920’s and actually figured out how he was going to get there when he was President in 1910..

  3. AnitaMann says:

    Ginsberg will be first to leave, and I’m surprised (but pleased) that she’s held out so long. The only possible conservative to leave in the next four years is Kennedy. That would work, especially if PBO puts in two youngish liberals. This could only work with filibuster reform though.

  4. Dawn Vincent says:

    Actually, I’d like Hillary on the Supreme Court. Bill unfortunately is prohibited from serving there, although he would be good.

  5. Jim Olson says:

    Let’s hope so.

  6. RyansTake says:

    Any one of them could croak, even the younger ones. It’s unlikely, but it happens, just like it can happen to any of us, any day we’re lucky enough to wake up and breath again.

  7. RyansTake says:

    I can’t see them resigning and I can’t see them impeached. I can see them really ruining the reputation of the courts for decades, and being a continual embarrassment for Republicans, such that we may be able to win more seats in the Senate and future Presidential elections from them.

  8. RyansTake says:

    Sotomeyer has actually been surprisingly liberal. Ginsberg will probably retire soon, though, and she’s one of the most liberal on the court, and perhaps the most liberal (certainly of those who’ve been there for a while).

    Obama should be expected to nominate someone who’s at least as liberal as Ginsberg for that seat, when it opens, and we should push for each pick to be at least a little bit more liberal than the person they’re replacing (and a lot more liberal if they’re replacing a conservative, should we get the opportunity).

  9. Sweetie says:

    “a truly liberal candidate” lol

  10. karmanot says:

    Wave a few bribes in his face and see if his eyes open.

  11. karmanot says:

    They might implode from corruption.

  12. Put a mirror under his nose… or a pubie?

  13. Send ’em McDonald coupons.

  14. good2go says:

    “Thomas I would expect to die on the bench…”

    How will we tell?

  15. judybrowni says:

    My dad’s 89, and pissed he can’t work anymore this last year or so.

    But then again, Dad’s always voted Democratic, so we can hope the bile of Republicanism will retire Scalia earlier.

  16. emjayay says:

    Huh, I thought Alito was a lot younger than that. Thomas is fat, black, angry, and I hope a chain smoker of unfiltered cigarettes. For the good of the country I don’t think hoping for the untimely demise of these guys or Scalia is all that bad. I think it’s just a three-hail-Mary level venial sin.

  17. karmanot says:

    True, Ginny Thomas makes Ann Romney look like Mother Teresa.

  18. karmanot says:


  19. emjayay says:

    Well, the two older fatter ones could always have a stroke or heart attack or something. Do they smoke, I hope?

  20. Ford Prefect says:

    Obama? Hiring leftish judges? No friggin’ way!

    So far, Sotomayor has voted to restrict access to contraceptives. Kagan was also the one who wrote Welform Reform for Clinton, so a good many people living under bridges have her to thank for that. What both of them have in common is they very much like corporations.

    So, no, prior performance would indicate RW neo-liberal justices who probably won’t void Roe v. Wade in exchange for the power to re-order society on radically different lines.

  21. BeccaM says:

    Kind of ignoring the elephant in the living room here, but let’s be honest — not all retirements are voluntary. I am not (repeat NOT) hope, wishing, or praying for anything unfortunate to happen to any of the SCOTUS justices, just pointing out that the older a person gets, the greater the likelihood of those age-related conditions that’ve taken away many of our loved ones. Heart attack, stroke, cancer, etc.

    No doubt those Justices get the best healthcare taxpayer money can afford, but nobody can turn back the hands of time. So while any of them might prefer to hang on until a favored party is in power to select a like-minded replacement, there’s no absolute guarantee that choice will be available for the duration. Four justices are in their 70s — Ginsberg, Scalia, Kennedy, and Breyer. Alito and Thomas are in their early 60s.

    But really, let’s be clear here: The court will move to the left if and only if (1) it’s a center or conservative justice that retires or is forced by health reasons to step down and (2) Obama nominates a liberal or well left-of-center justice as a replacement. We can take bets on the likelihood of that second part happening.

  22. AdmNaismith says:

    Scalia/Thomas/Alito/Roberts are not old or frail enough to retire.  Without replacing one of them, the Court’s not really going anywhere.

  23. Naja pallida says:

    There is a heck of a lot of wiggle room between “won’t try to overturn Roe v. Wade” and “liberal justice”, or even “left-wing”. Using what we already know about the kind of Justices Obama seems to like, as well the kind of Justice that the Senate would be willing to actually champion to appoint, I would not anticipate anything other than a status quo candidate.

  24. JackFknTwist says:

    The answer is easy ; let’s elect Hillery Clinton in 2016.

    That should ensure a liberal progressive court for a generation…..(and Pat Robertson should be dead by then.)

  25. JackFknTwist says:

    Scalia is partisan and manipulative.He will not retire when a liberal president is in power.
    ginsberg will retire for health issues.
    Thomas is just a hanger -on without character.
    replacing liberals with liberals won’t get us over the treshold…..we need Scalia/Thomas/Alito to doisappear. Roberts should go too…and give the modern era a chance to escape their stifling old conservatism.

  26. nicho says:

    If by “left” you mean “corporate interests,” then yes.

  27. FLL says:

    Of the older moderates and conservatives, Scalia won’t be persuaded to go until advanced dementia becomes so pronounced that he’s inflicting physical harm on himself, perhaps starting to bang his head against the wall repeatedly, so I wouldn’t count on Obama or even Obama’s Democratic successor getting the opportunity to replace Scalia. Kennedy, a swing vote, is 76 and offers Obama his only real opportunity to move the Court to the left. Ginsburg and Breyer, although old, consistently support progressive issues.

  28. HKDaniel says:

    Scalia won’t go unless (and I hate to say this already) the Dems win the Presidency in 2016.
    I would be very surprised if he left under Obama, but by 2016 he’ll pretty much lose the will to wait it out again.
    Ginsburg will go, probably Kennedy too. Thomas I would expect to die on the bench, but if Scalia goes he’ll lose his brain, so who knows.
    Anyone who thinks Obama is a fool, is just that. The man is smart and he knows the importance of the Supremes, he’ll nominate solid, intelligent people. The repubs will think they’re liberal, they think everyone who disagrees with them on anything is a liberal.
    So, in who he’ll likely get a chance to replace, yes, he will likely move it a skosh to the left. If one of the righties retires, it will be solidly to the left or at least to the side of sanity.
    But justices are rarely a sure thing, one never knows how a given justice may evolve once on the bench.

  29. cslib says:

    If you believe that Obama is going to be anymore liberal in his last term in political office, before he collects his rewards from corporate America for a job well done, then I have a nice bridge sitting in a bay I would like to sell you.

  30. Indigo says:

    Will a Blue Dog move left? Bwa-ha-ha-ha!

  31. mr_ed says:

    Scalia will not go unless he chokes on a meatball. His clone, Thomas, is run by his wife, who will tell him when it’s time. They’ll be more than happy to stay a few more years, just to frustrate the liberals. The balance will not change unless Kennedy leaves, and he’s in pretty good shape.

  32. This was part of his platform wasn’t it?

  33. catdance says:

    Two words:  He’d. Better.

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