Democrats & Liberals Archives

Grow to the Left

Conservatives are running around like chickens with their heads cut off because Bush did not nominate to the Supreme Court a “true conservative.” They are fearful that Harriet Miers may turn out to be another - what a horror? - David Souter. Bush tells these conservatives to trust him. But too many of them do not. They are distraught because they know from experience that too many conservative Supreme Court appointees have, with time, learned the virtues of the liberal judicial philosophy and “grown to the left.”

To reassure his base, President Bush said this about Miers:

"I know her well enough to be able to say that she's not going to change, that 20 years from now she'll be the same person with the same philosophy that she is today."

In other words, she is conservative now and will be conservative forever more. Conservatives do not trust Bush on this for a simple reason: Many an appointed conservative judge "grew to the left" once they developed Supreme Court experience. According to Larry J. Sabato

"about a quarter of confirmed nominees in the last half-century, ends up evolving from conservative to moderate or liberal."

Sabato includes in this list Earl Warren, William Brennan, Harry Blackmun. Today Republicans include Souter. Sabato presents only one instance when a justice "grew to the right": Byron "Whizzer" White, who shifted from a JFK New Frontiersman to a pro-life social conservative.

Big name conservatives are scared. Tim Russert had several conservatives on Meet the Press Sunday and each was worried about the possibility of Miers "growing to the left." No conservative was worried when Clarence Thomas was considered for the Court. He famously said "I won't evolve."

Why do conservative justices tend to "grow to the left"?

Well, why are these judges conservative in the first place? Could it be they are conservative in order to better climb the judicial ladder? Is it possible they use conservatism to cozy up to the rich and powerful? Maybe they use conservatism to build their resume?

Before I get attacked for being cynical, let me say that I believe many judicial candidates do this sort of thing without realizing it. After all, all of us do things because we are living in the "system."

Once a candidate gets on the Supreme Court, he or she is there for life. This means he or she does not need to worry about "getting ahead." He or she is free to judge each case on its merits. He or she can now be concerned with justice.

As the justice hears cases between rich and poor, between the powerful and the powerless, and between majorities and minorities, he or she gets to realize how everything is skewed toward favoring the rich, the powerful and majorities. If the justice is honest and ethical, soon he or she will exercise compassion towards those in disfavor and seek the common good. He or she will "grow to the left."

I have no idea whether Miers will "grow to the left." I'm happy, though, that it is a real possibility. It gives me a little more faith in the rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Posted by Paul Siegel at October 10, 2005 5:54 PM
Comments
Comment #84738

Indeed. The fact that Miers went through the infamous “All Boys Club” in Texas would support your theory. Nothing like being discriminated against to piss you off.

Posted by: Aldous at October 10, 2005 9:30 PM
Comment #84741

There haven’t been any TRUE CONSERVITIVE justices on the Supreme Court in my life time. So if they ‘grown left’ it’s because they were left leaning to start with.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 10, 2005 9:40 PM
Comment #84743

I would bet that knowing you have lifetime
tenure and can snub your nose at those who tell
you how to rule would be wonderfully liberating.
I know it would be for me.

Posted by: Disgusted in GA at October 10, 2005 9:46 PM
Comment #84750

That’s interesting, since she was a democrat 20 years ago.

Posted by: Cole at October 10, 2005 10:44 PM
Comment #84761

Paul:

I would qualify your words “Conservatives”. It is “Conservatives in Washington” that are wringing their hands. Out across American rank and file Republicans are not concerned. We are waiting to get to know her a bit. As for myself being a moderate republican, I am more concerned about her lack of judical experience. (Although it might be a good thing, I just have to think about it).

Craig

Posted by: Craig Holmes at October 11, 2005 12:18 AM
Comment #84762

Cole:

Everyone was a Democrat in Texas 20 years ago. Just like the rest of the south.

Posted by: calibama at October 11, 2005 12:26 AM
Comment #84827

calibama
Speak for yourself, I never was a democrat, and I grew up in the South.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 11, 2005 7:32 AM
Comment #84865
Everyone was a Democrat in Texas 20 years ago. Just like the rest of the south.
Speak for yourself, I never was a democrat, and I grew up in the South.

That’s because you’re not everyone, Ron.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at October 11, 2005 9:38 AM
Comment #84866
Everyone was a Democrat in Texas 20 years ago. Just like the rest of the south.
Speak for yourself, I never was a democrat, and I grew up in the South.

That’s because you’re not everyone, Ron.

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at October 11, 2005 9:43 AM
Comment #84873

Paul,
Good theory.

But instead of thinking Miers may grow to the left, I think she was appointed because she is seen as someone who will not. W might be shrewder in this appointment than many think.

Posted by: Ms Schwamp at October 11, 2005 10:00 AM
Comment #84911
W might be shrewder in this appointment than many think.

I think that’s the first time I’ve ever seen President Bush described as shrewd.

Good article Paul. I just love it that Miers was suggested by Sen. Reid and Democrats are either keeping their mouths shut or giving her the thumbs up. It’s driving conservatives nuts!

Just to really stick it to ‘em, Democrats should insist on an immediate up or down vote on Miers. Republicans must stop being obstructionists!

Posted by: American Pundit at October 11, 2005 11:51 AM
Comment #84928

What kind of logic is

—As the justice hears cases between rich and poor, between the powerful and the powerless, and between majorities and minorities, he or she gets to realize how everything is skewed toward favoring the rich, the powerful and majorities. If the justice is honest and ethical, soon he or she will exercise compassion towards those in disfavor and seek the common good. —

If this is the way the “left” truly views the “right,” then it is no wonder that there is there are those among the “right” that are found of dropping “socialist” into their post. Does it all really boil down to control of capital?

Do none of you believe that the difference between Republicans and Democrats are approaches to the middle part of moving from bad to good rather than the disagreements over what is good and what is bad?

Posted by: Rob at October 11, 2005 1:20 PM
Comment #84941

AP
Just to really stick it to ‘em, Democrats should insist on an immediate up or down vote on Miers. Republicans must stop being obstructionists!

And the Democrats weren’t being obstructionist with Roberts?

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 11, 2005 2:24 PM
Comment #84945
What kind of logic is

—As the justice hears cases between rich and poor, between the powerful and the powerless, and between majorities and minorities, he or she gets to realize how everything is skewed toward favoring the rich, the powerful and majorities. If the justice is honest and ethical, soon he or she will exercise compassion towards those in disfavor and seek the common good. —

If this is the way the “left” truly views the “right,” then it is no wonder that there is there are those among the “right” that are found of dropping “socialist” into their post. Does it all really boil down to control of capital?

Do none of you believe that the difference between Republicans and Democrats are approaches to the middle part of moving from bad to good rather than the disagreements over what is good and what is bad?
Posted by: Rob at October 11, 2005 01:20 PM

Yes, because that is the way it is largely, along with a few anomalies on both sides. The haves on the right, the have nots on the left; the old school of thought on the right, the new school of thought on the left.

Being appointed for life is largely liberating. It also allows one to do as he truly wishes without a check to his power. So they get to call it as they see it, which is different from a politician.

Posted by: Darrius at October 11, 2005 2:39 PM
Comment #84976

So the have not’s on the left include the millionaires in the Senate, the House, and major Wall Street banks, right?

And the have’s among the right include those Christian fundamentalist preachers that make nothing and subsist on donations alone, right?

My point is that there is more to society than have and have nots. If there weren’t, colleges wouldn’t need sociology professors and could cut most of their psychology team as well.

Boiling society’s problems down purely to economics is flat-earth “old school” thinking in my book. I don’t think either side is particular old school or new school in their thinking. I think that there are creative minds on both sides of the aisle trying to find creative solutions to today’s problems. Sure, they do so more or less inside of philosophical constructs that reflect the beliefs of their constituencies. But I don’t believe either side has a lock on old or new.

Posted by: Rob at October 11, 2005 6:31 PM
Comment #84999

You mean the earth isn’t flat? I want my
dues back.

Perhaps there is more to this question than
economics but that seems to explain most
societies and political sysstems as well as if
not better than any other theory I’ve heard.
Millionaires on the left and poor preachers
on the right are the exceptions that prove
the rule.

Posted by: Disgusted in GA at October 11, 2005 10:16 PM
Comment #85001

Do none of you believe that the difference between Republicans and Democrats are approaches to the middle part of moving from bad to good rather than the disagreements over what is good and what is bad?
Posted by: Rob at October 11, 2005 01:20 PM

I have become so angry over the religious right and their intractable superstitious value systems, that I no longer believe the Republicans want anything but corporations with total freedom to do anything they wish no matter who they hurt.

Big corporate Republicans crawled into bed with the religious right because they wanted to strip this country of protections for people (most specifically women) and the environment.

Do I believe there are any Republicans worth having a conversation with? No.

Further, a lot of the protections they are destroying protect the poor white religious right. I believe it is beautiful irony. None deserve it more.

Posted by: Cassandra Cartwright at October 11, 2005 10:28 PM
Comment #85113

Unfortunately, Cassandra, most conservatives don’t recognize irony:

Just to really stick it to ‘em, Democrats should insist on an immediate up or down vote on Miers. Republicans must stop being obstructionists!

And the Democrats weren’t being obstructionist with Roberts?

:/

Posted by: American Pundit at October 12, 2005 4:51 AM
Comment #85115

“I have become so angry over the religious right and their intractable superstitious value systems, that I no longer believe the Republicans want anything but corporations with total freedom to do anything they wish no matter who they hurt.

Big corporate Republicans crawled into bed with the religious right because they wanted to strip this country of protections for people (most specifically women) and the environment.”

Firstly, I don’t see how any of this spew has anything to do with the Mier’s nomination. All I see is the liberal spouting that undermines any of the left’s creditability. I don’t agree with the religious right, I think it is a crock, but at least I don’t pour out regerjetated liberal propoganda. Would I have given these comments some head…yes…were it not for,

“Do I believe there are any Republicans worth having a conversation with? No.”

Now this is just ridiculous. I am a Republican and I think yet again the members of the left are marginalizing Republicans as wholly Conservative. I support Miers because I hope she interprets the Constitution in a manner that allows her to create better social equalities. However, I do not see this as a leftist view. I see this as where the Republicans should be going! We should be appointing Miers and Roberts so to bring forth leaders who believe in important fundementals of Republicanism such as State rights, but at the same time promoting concrete social equalities. Some say that makes me a liberal Republican…I think that just makes me a Republican.
Now please, Cassandra don’t reply to this…we wouldn’t want to risk you having a conversation with a Republican.

Posted by: The BDB at October 12, 2005 5:22 AM
Comment #85230

Cassandra, I particularly enjoyed this point: “Big corporate Republicans crawled into bed with the religious right because they wanted to strip this country of protections for people (most specifically women) and the environment.” Not sure if I am cynical enough to

The most cycnical amongst us might say that “Big Corporate Republicans don’t exist. They tend to be equal opportunists in their willingness to climb in bed with political idealogues. Their main criteria for picking a partners seems to be the ability to win. They certainly aren’t benefited by stripping anyone of ‘protections’ only us a taxpayers and citizens of our money.”

I’m not certain that I’m cyncial enough to agree, but it certainly seems more likely than your suggestion.

Posted by: Rob at October 12, 2005 1:52 PM
Comment #85401

If Ron Brown really means what he says:
—-Start
There haven’t been any TRUE CONSERVITIVE justices on the Supreme Court in my life time. So if they ‘grown left’ it’s because they were left leaning to start with.

Posted by: Ron Brown at October 10, 2005 09:40 PM
—-End

Then I don’t know how much more rightward he wishes Scalia Kennedy and Thomas would be. If they’re left-leaning, fer cryin’ out loud what does a TRUE CONSERVITIVE look like? Heavy brow ridge and animal skin wardrobe?


I love how the definition of a conservative is someone with a healthy respect for precedent (don’t reinvent previously decided issues), EXCEPT when it’s, oh say Roe V Wade or Lawrence v Texas. Right to privacy is OK when it’s not about homosexuality or access to birth control or abortion. The right to use one’s property unfettered is sacred to the conservative, even at the expense of zoning, environment, safety, or access to public accommodation. Why can’t we all just get along?

Posted by: Gill in MA at October 13, 2005 12:12 AM
Comment #85460

Look at the numbers the rich and powerful are mostly democrats? Corporations! both sides have them ,that’s where there big money comes from.

Da niether side has it’s monopoly on Corporations. More like RICH DEMOCRATS who ran the congress for 40 years and made themselves fat. The American people saw through the lies and deceit and now they are the minority with no idea’s and more Demonization.

Posted by: CAD at October 13, 2005 2:43 AM
Comment #86909

Dear Paul Siegel,
No wonder that you are a loyal Democrat or its supporter, and your argument seems to be persuasive because of a simple reason that these conservatives will favor the weak by their honesty and ethics, “eventually”. You state, “Many an appointed conservative judge “grew to the left” once they developed Supreme Court experience.” In order to support this point, you quote from Larry J. Sabato, “About a quarter of confirmed nominees in the last half-century, ends up evolving from conservative to moderate and liberal.” Unfortunately, your comparison of the current situation to the previous history of some conservative judges in an attempt to prove that it is a real possibility of Ms Miers to “grow to the left” is a post hoc fallacy. Actually, we all know that anything as complex as politics is affected by numerous factors such as religions, moral values, affiliations, corporations, and, of course, party interests and so on. Surely, moral values may affect a person’s view, but sometimes it is not the sole cause.
I still remember that when former vice-president Gore ran against Texas Governor Bush in the 2000 presidential race, (well, Gore is not that kind of “weak.”) it was the Supreme Court with its 5-4 ruling, that handed the presidency over to Mr. Bush after it halted a recount of the Florida balloting. I wonder how many judges were on the “left” side at that moment. Were they concerned only with justice?
Moreover, you try to analyze the reason of being a conservative so that you can make the conclusion, which it is possible for them to turn to be liberal. You state, “Well, why are these judges conservative in the first place? Could it be they are conservative in order to better climb the judicial ladder? Is it possible they use conservatism to cozy up to the rich and powerful? Maybe they use conservatism to build their resume?” Then, you seem to get the answer. You think that sometimes we do things without realizing it because we are living in the “system”, and once we got what we want, we can display our good personalities and do something good. What a logical is that? Besides, you mention the “system”. So, now we get to clear the air here, maybe this is not just some civil rights struggle for justice. Perhaps, it is a struggle for power. Since the Democratic Party lost the election in 2004, they really need to grab the power to restrain their opponents.The Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of all American laws. As such the opinion of the nine individuals, who serve for life, is vital to each one of us. Therefore, whoever sits on this bench is of utmost importance to all Americans. That may explain why this war continues that appears to be at impasse because both sides have their valid concerns. You feel happy that there is a real possibility for Ms Miers to “grow to the left.”
Furthermore, you enumerate some people who shift from conservative to liberal such as Souter. You also give an example about a meeting among some conservatives who worry about the possibilities of Miers “growing to the left”. However, according to the news, several conservatives’ leaders, including James Dobson, Rush Limbaugh have given Miers a qualified. How can you explain that? You see, the point is, the premises of this article only focus on the past and conjectures. There is nothing about Miers herself. Everything listed seems convincible, but not logically supported.
After five years in office, President Bush now has not one, but two nominations to the highest court. With the recently announced retirement of Justice O’ Connor and recent death of chief justice Rhenquist, Mr. Bush is in prime position to reshape the nine-member court. Meanwhile, with the Republicans and command of both houses of Congress, President Bush is now set to leave his legacy with the executive, legislative and judiciary branches of the U.S. government. This is not for the eight years he would have served as president, but his ideology on the rule of law may impact the next several generations.
As you write in the article that once a candidate gets on the Supreme Court, it will be lifetime. Since John Roberts is only 50 years old, the U.S. government can conceivably have a Roberts-led Court for three to four decades. This is going to be a long time. Can you make an assumption about whether he would “grow to the left”, depends on what? I don’t know.

Posted by: Jun at October 20, 2005 5:30 PM
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