Mark Halpern identifies the biggest concern about Souter’s replacement:
Aw, poor white guys! We only make up seven of the nine Supreme Court Justices. Why, one of them’s a woman! And there’s even a black guy! What more do you people want?
4. Does the White House get drawn into a discussion of an abortion litmus test for its nominee? (from “The Eleven Real Supreme Court nomination questions to watch now”)
And so what if the White House does? Should a nominee for the highest court in the country not be tested on hir willingness to uphold the law?
That’s not how an abortion litmus test works.
In theory, everyone involved will “uphold” the law, but lawyers are constantly changing, moving, pressing fo unusual interpretations of, and arguing against the law. That’s how Roe came into being in the first place; the Supremes pretty much made it up.
The litmus tests asks people whether they would vote to overturn Roe. That’s not an issue of following the law, since you could follow the law and either uphold or try to overturn roe.
BTW, did anyone else notice that the “no white men” tagline is nowhere to be found in the actual article? It’s on the front page, but not visible when you actually try to read it. Odd.
Obama says that he wants a court that is a reflection of the American people.
So, given 2008 demographics, here’s the court he should be tending toward to make it a better reflection of the populace . . . given as characteristic (percentage of population) (number of justices):
non-hispanic white (68%) (6.12)
latina/o (15%) (1.35)
african american (12%) (1.08)
asian american (5%) (0.45)
women (51%) (4.6)
men (49%) (4.4)
christian (78%) (7.02)
non-christian religious (4%) (0.36)
no religion (15%) (1.35)
didn’t know (3%) (0.27)
But you can’t have fractional justices! so, maybe you’d have :
5 women, 4 men;
6 white, 1 latina/o, 1 black, 1 asian;
7 christian, 2 non-christian
And of course, Obama has to pick from the highly-qualified candidates available, who may or may not have characteristics that would make the court a better representation of the country. And of course he should not overlook any gifted candidates based on gender/race/religion.
But in the matter of judging wisely it does seem that personal background matters (as we saw in the school strip-search case), and having a representative judiciary at the highest level seems a good goal.
It’s a shame that we can’t get better representation with respect to age or poverty status – but all the good candidates will be older than the average American, and much richer than the average American.
Based on this type of reasoning, though, we could have 1 non-straight justice (pollsters find that about 4%-6% of Americans self-identify having a non-hetero sexual orientation)
Souter was popularly rumored to be non-straight because he was a middle-aged bachelor living with his mother. However, people who knew him from NH swear that he likes women but just can’t stand to live with one. The only non-straight candidate whose name I’ve heard seriously discussed is Kathleen Sullivan, Dean of Stanford Law (whom I’ve mentioned at AAB before because she failed the CA bar exam the first time she took it).
We already have two non-Christians on the Court: both Ginsburg and Breyer are Jews. What is kind of disproportionate wrt religion is that 5 justices are Catholic: Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Kennedy and Scalia (who apparently took it seriously and has 9 kids).
Realistically, given that Obama is himself a product of the Ivy League system and seems kind of bought into it, I’d recommend looking at the percentages of Ivy law school grads who fall into various identity categories as a more plausible way of determining the available crop of Supreme Court nominees. That still should be about 40% female, 30% non-white and 30% non-Christian, though most of those non-Christians will be Jews and as noted Jews are currently well-represented on the Court.
Yeah, when I read, “No white men need apply,” presumably reflecting a desire for demographic balance, I thought “No Catholics need apply either.”
But if Obama wants justices that better reflect the American people, I’ll throw my hat in the ring — revealing my oh-so-shiny head!
Halpern appears to be a fairly liberal guy, so its possible he (or his leftists editor/headline writer) was stating his opinion—advocating for the position “white men need not apply,” albeit in a way that’s jarringly straightforward, as opposed to the more nuanced language clever affirmative-action advocates normally use to cover their real motive.
Unintintinal honesty is a real possibility here.
Except of course it was assumed when O’Connor stepped down that there would be a preference to replace her with a woman. There was the same “no men need apply” assumptions. And Bush nominated Miers. And even Republicans said, “Seriously? No.”
True PG, but what you wrote just adds more credence to the alternate scenario. Of course, conservatives have gotten into the AA game. “Assumption” is a good way of putting it.
What’s funny this time around, assuming Politico’s just stating the assumption rather than bemoaning it, is the reaction to plainly stating a fact of modern day politics.
One must learn to sugarcoat.
Conservative presidents have gotten into affirmative action (Thomas by Bush I; Miers by Bush II), but conservatives as a whole decidedly have not. They bemoan plenty. Even liberals who are themselves white males and thus subject to losing out under affirmative action policies will bemoan it. Liberals in the media will recognize that many people will bemoan it and be duly outraged (and thus interested, and commenting, and providing multiple clicks that translate as ad revenue) and therefore it’s very much in the liberals’ interests, regardless of their own opinions, to frame it as negatively as possible.
“White Men Need Not Apply” is a predictably stupid way to put it, since one doesn’t apply for federal judicial nominations and it’s considered rather tacky (and self-defeating) to angle for them by contacting the president’s staff — especially at the appellate level, where if you’re good enough, your name should come up.