Thinking Clearly About Judges
Ender's video which featured the former Clinton supporter indirectly reminded me of the topic of judicial appointments and its effect on voters.
A common argument for McCain that has been used to shore up his support among the base is that he will appoint strict constructionist judges in the mold of Antonin Scalia while Obama will try to pack the court with far left ideologues. That, in and of itself, is a good enough reason to pull the lever for McCain, regardless of what views he may have on other issues. Indeed, a McCain presidency could finally be what overturns Roe v. Wade. Lets take a moment to dissect these arguments.
First, let us assume that McCain does win the presidency. Barring any sort of miracle at the polls, he will be facing a very hostile Democrat-controlled Senate which is currently projected (via 538 ) to hold about 56 seats (including Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman). Does anyone really believe that the Senate will confirm someone who the President purports to be the ideological equivalent to Antonin Scalia? The Democrats could afford up to 16 defections and still hold the line via a filibuster against any so-called "extremist" judge. As I like to say, "not bloody likely".
What works is in McCain's favor is that the judges most likely to retire are ones who are generally considered to be in the liberal bloc: John Paul Stevens (88) and Ruth Bader Ginsburg (75). At best McCain can hope to replace two liberals with two moderates. Even looking ahead to 2010, the Republicans will still be on defense in the Senate simply due to the shear number of Republican-held seats (19R vs 14D ). I highly doubt that Roe would be overturned given these facts.
Now let us assume that Obama is the winner. As previously mentioned, he will have a compliant Senate to do his bidding. In a filibuster scenario, pro-choice Republicans would probably defect, essentially giving him carte blanche to appoint anyone he wants. But recall that he's probably only going to be able to replace liberals with other liberals, so the overall ideology of the court will not likely change. Obviously Roe will be safe under Obama, but there isn't much he'd be able to change by replacing liberals with other liberals.
So to sum up, Obama can't do much more than hold the line on Roe unless there is an expected retirement or death among the conservative bloc, and McCain's hands will be tied by the Senate. So if you're a conservative looking to overturn Roe you're going to have to wait until 2012 when the Democrats have 24 Senate seats to defend and the President is up for re-election. In essence, judges are less important now than they will be in the future.