There’s an interesting article on the New York Times that is essentially speculation (but at least it’s interesting speculation) about what many see as the inevitable Supreme Court appointments that President Obama will have to deal with. The article says:
“A really powerful, articulate, moral, passionate voice on the left,” said Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, “would really change the dynamic on the court. It would pull the other justices who are inclined to be sympathetic to that voice in that direction. It would shift the center of the discussion — about what’s the middle.”
There is precedent for this. Justice Antonin Scalia, who has been on the court since 1986, was for years a lonely and energetic dissenter on the right. But the seeds he planted in those dissents have over time taken root in majority decisions.
To me this makes a lot of sense. I would think that Obama would suffer a lot of criticism from the left were he to appoint a moderate or even a justice that is slightly conservative. In addition, he would be able to argue to the conservatives that he isn’t actually liberalizing the court and is instead just maintaining the balance by replacing a liberal like Justice Steven’s with a perhaps more vocal liberal. It will be interesting to see how these appointments play out if and when they occur.