Subscribe via RSS Feed

Author Page for Scott Lemieux

rss feed

Palin and Special Needs

[ 2 ] November 4, 2008 |

I don’t think that Palin deserves much credit for her purported support for assistance to special needs children, for the reasons Mark Schmitt has memorably discussed. Harold Pollack, however, argues that Palin isn’t even rising to the level of Miss America conservatism; her policies actually won’t provide useful help at all.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share

Dodged Bullets

[ 7 ] November 3, 2008 |

Perhaps the most puzzling phenomenon of the Democratic primary campaign was the frequently heard argument that the candidate of Mark Penn would be the one most likely to advance a bold progressive policy agenda and stick to it. I, myself, am quite happy that Penn will not be advising the next President.

One thing to add to Matt’s broader point is that 1994 was the culmination of the Republican realignment in the South that was made inevitable by the Johnson administration. It won’t happen again to remotely the same extent in 2010 because, er, it’s already happened; there aren’t a lot of easy seats held by nominal Democrats in the south for the Republicans to pick off. To argue for a timorous agenda based in 1994 would be silly; the Dems were going to lose seats then no matter what, and there’s no reason to believe that had Clinton been (even more) centrist this could have been avoided.

What A McCain Court Would Be (And What It Wouldn’t)

[ 8 ] November 3, 2008 |

Since we haven’t heard much about the courts in this election, I suppose it’s worth noting that given the likely retirements of Ginsburg (75 year-old cancer survivor), Souter (69, hates D.C. and isn’t crazy about the job) and Stevens (in college when the word “damn” could generate national controversy; may have seen Cap Anson play live) and the fact that the other federal courts are already stacked with Republicans, a McCain presidency would have far-reaching and very bad consequences for the judiciary that would extend for decades. If you don’t believe me, believe the usually Panglossian Jeffrey Rosen.

Since an Obama win that would preserve the current conservative majority for a while is more likely, it’s worth pointing out that while his overall argument is correct and useful I think Rosen is actually overreaching a little. He writes:

It’s true that certain kinds of conservative nominees would change the Court more dramatically than others. Activist conservatives, who yearn for the resurrection of what they call the Constitution in Exile, would be far more likely to challenge Congress and to strike down a range of federal regulations, from health care and the environment to the economic bailout. By contrast, deferential conservatives, who believe in judicial minimalism across the board, would generally uphold laws passed by Congress as well as the states.

Leaving aside the fact that it’s primarily liberals, not conservatives, who use the “Constitution in Exile” label, I still think that this is misstating the impact of conservative appointments to the courts. I’m not worried about even a McCain-fortified Court ruling major New Deal regulatory programs unconstitutional, and even if they were to do so this would work out about as well as it did in 1935; the Court is not going to survive a struggle against strongly committed legislative and popular majorities. They might overturn Roe and a few other Warren/early Burger precedents explicitly, but will no embark on a major challenge to the basic framework of the federal government. A more conservative court would be much more likely do more of what’s it already doing. Not to overturn the Civil Rights Act on commerce clause grounds, for example, but rather to interpret statutory language in ways that make it much more difficult to bring lawsuits (and hope that, as with Ledbetter, institutional veto points can prevent legislative majorities from responding.)

Which bring us to the second problem, which is relevant no matter who wins the election: the conflation of “minimalist” and “deferential.” One has nothing to do with the other. O’Connor, an arch-minimalist if there ever was one, is also about as far from “deferential” as you can get. And this is precisely what caused Rosen to miss the boat on Roberts. As Alito and Roberts demonstrate, it’s perfectly possible to be a formal “minimalist” and a doctrinaire conservative “activist.” And precisely because minimalists are less likely to make bold pronouncements or explicitly overrule precedents, they’re likely to accomplish similar things while insulating the court from political retaliation. And because they aren’t attached to grand jurisprudential theories, minimalists are also likely to be if anything more consistent about reaching conservative policy outcomes.

In other words, if anything Alito and Robetrs are more dangerous to American progressives than Scalia. Whoever is appointing the next round of federal judges, it’s important to remember this and not be distracted by implausible fears of a “Constitution in Exile” returning.

Election Picks

[ 0 ] November 3, 2008 |

Just for fun, I guess it’s time to make some election calls:

  • President: Obama 326, McCain 212 (Obama gets all Kerry states + NM, CO, NV, OH, VA, IA, NC)
  • Senate: Dems +7
  • House Dems +31
  • Regardless of the outcome, Mickey Kaus will claim that voters really prefer divided government, and their top priorities are draconian immigration policies and busting teacher’s unions.

Somehow, I feel most confident in that last one…

The GOP Didn’t Always Pulled Out, But It Never Aplogized

[ 7 ] November 3, 2008 |

Nice to see that the GOP is abandoning most of its efforts to retain/take House seats in New York State. Even better, they wasted a lot of money here before doing so. This includes normally solidly Republican Staten Island; whatever the morality of his various actions, the country does owe Vito Fossella one big favor…

The Folly of "Fetal Rights" Initiatives

[ 0 ] November 2, 2008 |

Sarah Wildman explains.

It should also be noted that Colorado’s ridiculous Prop 48 — which would give constitutional rights to a zygote — is favored by John McCain and is also extremely unpopular. Nonetheless, I somehow doubt that after McCain loses both Colorado and the election we’re going to get a series of thinkpieces about the GOP needs to abandon their unpopular positions on abortion if they want to win. Although it must be conceded that failing to pick Tim Kaine was a devastating blow to the Democrats’ chances this year…

The "Town Hall" Pre-Emptive Whine

[ 18 ] November 2, 2008 |

I believe that this crap was also a centerpiece of McCain’s SNL appearance yesterday. Of course, the idea that McCain had to run a dishonest campaign centered around inane trivia because Obama wouldn’t agree to the precise debate schedule he requested has always been risible on its face. But it’s particularly hilarious to see The Dean swallow the whining given that 1)there was a town hall debate, 2)McCain performed abysmally, and 3)as Steve says, the McCain campaign continued to be centered around idiotic guilt-by-distant-association smears and the claim that a 39% marginal tax rate McCain supported less than a decade ago is “socialism” while 36% is “America first” after the magic of the town hall debate happened. If this “stop hitting yourself” argument seems plausible to you, it’s probably a sign that your op-ed slot needs to be turned over to someone capable of basic reasoning.

Homophobia is Not A Means of Advancing Gay and Lesbian Rights

[ 41 ] November 1, 2008 |

To echo what Rob (and Henry) have said, it’s worth drawing a distinction here. Reasonable people can argue about “outing” in the sense of, say, a newspaper publishing reliable information that a politician with rabidly anti-gay views is in fact gay or lesbian. While I agree with Rob that I don’t have a lot of sympathy for a politician who wants to make the consensual sexual choices of adults a major political and public policy issue and then gets outed, I’m not really crazy about even this. Homophobic positions are equally bad on the merits whether they’re advanced by heterosexuals or not, and a cursory examination of justifications for discussing various irrelevant aspects of the lives of public officials will show that “hypocrisy” justifications tend to become pretty weak tea — it gets so that anybody who’s ever appeared in public with their spouse is completely fair game. Basically, I would say that I probably wouldn’t publish such information in most cases and don’t think it’s really relevant to anything, but there’s at least a fair argument to be made in such cases.

But the anti-McConnell ad is another matter entirely, completely beyond any reasonable justification. The salient fact is that the ad is disgustingly homophobic. It’s just directly trying to mobilize anti-gay sentiment against McConnell, which is beyond any progressive pale. Fighting bigotry with bigotry isn’t a defensible position, and of course the ad isn’t even trying to do the former. Nobody should want to unseat McConnell this way.

Studs Terkel

[ 7 ] November 1, 2008 |

R.I.P.

Conservative Domination of the Federal Courts

[ 5 ] October 31, 2008 |

As a welcome companion to Steven Calabresi’s silly ranting about how — horrors! — Barack Obama may completely transform the federal courts (if a whole bunch of relatively young judges retire en masse, of course, Charlie Savage brings some data about the extent to which Bush has transformed the federal courts. Democrats control exactly…one of the 13 federal circuit courts (with 2 being evenly split), and overall Republican appointees represent a whopping 62% of the federal circuit courts. Moreover, these numbers probably understate the reactionary tilt of the federal courts; recent Republican presidents have tended to be much more committed to appointing strong conservatives than Democratic presidents have been to appointing strong liberals.

In his first term, Obama will just be attempting to restore balance to the courts. And what they would look like after a couple more Republican terms is something I don’t even want to contemplate. And I hope that Obama will look beyond the cautious moderates he seems attracted to for some appointments.

Revisting Roe’s Status

[ 0 ] October 31, 2008 |

Kay Steiger has an excellent article about how vulnerable Roe is under the current Supreme Court, which quotes yours truly. The bottom line for me remains that the argument that Roe‘s overturn is imminent depends on the belief that Kennedy has changed, and I just don’t think there’s any evidence that he has. To add a couple of points:

  • Leaving aside the question of how “political” we can expect the Court to be, I don’t understand why a politically savvy court would wait until Democrats hostile to their views controlled every branch of the federal government to overturn Roe. I don’t see how it becomes any better for the GOP to overturn Roe explicitly in 2010 than it is now. If anything, a politically savvy Court would have seen 2008 as a likely Democatic year anyway and gotten it over with if it wanted to do it.
  • The idea that Roe would be explicitly overturned also ignores the extent to which Alito and Roberts have gone out of their way to nominally “uphold” precedents they’re not seriously applying. If they’re not willing to explicitly overturn precedents that almost nobody in the general public cares about, they’re certainly not going to be anxious to do so on a high-salience issue where such an outcome would be very unpopular.

None of this is to say that I’m sanguine about women’s access to abortion in this country. It’s important to remember how much damage can be done to abortion access without Roe being overturned. And if a court gets more Republican appointments, that’s a different matter entirely. But the Court as currently configured isn’t going to explicitly announce the overruling of Roe v. Wade.

How Can We Forget You if You Won’t Go Away?

[ 28 ] October 31, 2008 |

Shorter Verbatim Bob Kerrey: “Obama understands that to succeed, he must make peace with John McCain just as he has done with Hillary Clinton. When this historic election concludes, I expect the two to sit down, without precondition, and negotiate an agenda of reform.”

Admittedly, I’m not opposed to any such discussion that begins (and ends) with Obama saying “Here’s my offer: nothing. Not even the fee for the gaming license, which I would appreciate if you would sell one of your 13 houses to put up personally.” Students who have watched Kerrey perfect the the all-too-active art of concern trolling will not be surprised to learn, however, that the “reforms” Kerrey seems to have in mind involve Obama agreeing to implement Republican fiscal policies using feeble Republican talking points…

Page 561 of 847« First...102030...559560561562563...570580590...Last »