Rumor: Supreme Court to Have Vacancy
Via Stop the ACLU, the rumor is that "a member of the U.S. Supreme Court has received grave medical news and will announce his or her retirement by year’s end," and specifically, that it's the oldest member, John Paul Stevens.
For the non-Court-watchers, here's what that means:
Right now we have four solid conservatives: Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito (Roberts and Alito are as-yet unproven, but they look reliable enough so far). We have three solid liberals: Ginsberg, Souter and Breyer. Neither side has an effective majority.
The remaining two are Anthony Kennedy and John Paul Stevens. Kennedy, a Reagen appointee, is widely viewed as the new O'Connor: a swing-voter who is tough to predict, and indeed my impression is that he has been drifting gradually leftward over the years. Sooner or later he may just decide to throw in his lot with the liberal three.
That leaves Stevens. His judicial philosophy can best be described as ... uh, well I'm coming up blank here. He tends to vote as though he's from Mars, and simply can't understand how human beings think. Most frustrating is where there is a four-four split between conservatives and liberals, and instead of breaking the tie, he writes some barely coherent "I don't like either one of 'em" concurrence that leaves the law in a state of confusion. Yeah, thanks a heap, buddy.
Regardless, if Stevens really is about to get the old nature-imposed have ho, that means the make-up of the Senate has just reached a critical stage. Republicans do not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. After immense pressure, Senate Dems decided not to filibuster Roberts or Alito, although they could have (which is why Republicans were discussing the "nuclear option" of banning judicial filibusters). If after this Tuesday they gain five seats (a strong possibility), the Senate will be dead even, and the likelihood of a filibuster exponentially increased.
If, on the other hand, Republicans keep their losses to a minimum, they will still be within range of a filibuster (they need 60 votes to be filibuster-proof), but the Dems are less likely to risk the political damage.
In practical terms, that means Bush could put a tried and true conservative on the bench to replace Stevens, giving the conservatives a solid and largely permanent voting block of five people -- enough to get a conservative result on literally every single case they hear. That means Roe v. Wade is gone. It means the ridiculous Michigan affirmative action cases are gone. It means the abominable Hamdan v. Rumsfeld is seriously weakened, if not gone.
I know there are conservatives out there who, justifiably, are disgusted with the Republicans. The GOP hasn't secured our borders, hasn't stood up to a treasonous liberal media that may very well succeed in Iraq where the terrorists failed, hasn't done anything at all about CIA leaks, has proven extremely corrupt (see e.g. Rep. Ney), has bowed to the slightest pressure from Dems on judicial nominees out of pure political cowardice (see e.g. Miguel Estrada), and they spend like drunken sailors.
Still. Congresses come and go. Even a President is only around for eight years. But a judge -- it's a lifetime appointment, people. William Brennan was a flaming liberal, and he sat on the court for forty years. For forty solid years he shaped US policy, not subject to review, not subject to any pressure when he made bad decisions, not subject to censure or anything whatsoever.
If we get the courts back, we can repair the damage that liberal judges have inflicted upon America for so long. But we cannot do that without the Senate. If you are pissed off at the GOP, swallow the bitter pill and vote for them anyway. Vote Dem in '08, I don't care. Give the liberals the White House and the Congress. We can change those things in regular elections. We can't change the composition of the Court, expect by an insanely slow and difficult process. Get out and vote. Get everyone you know to vote. We cannot lose the Senate, or we will have lost our best shot at the Court.