Hanson identifies ‘commandments’ connected to the U.S. Supreme Court

Victor Davis Hanson‘s latest column for National Review Online focuses on 10 characteristics of the U.S. Supreme Court that could be considered as important as “commandments.”

1) Right to Left. The majority of post-war Republican Supreme Court nominees, who were initially perceived as conservative, turned liberal on the bench (Harry Blackmun, William Brennan, David Souter, John Paul Stevens, Earl Warren), or went from right-wing to center-right or centrist (Warren Burger, Sandra Day O’Connor, Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts). Perhaps the pressures of approval from the liberal social and political culture of Washington, D.C., becomes finally overwhelming. Or justices sense that the liberal media and historians will praise and memorialize a “maverick” who “grows,” “matures,” or “evolves,” while dismissing a “recalcitrant,” “hard-core,” or “reactionary” justice who remains a strict constructionist. …

… 2) Never Left to Right. In contrast, few Democratic nominees become centrist or conservative. To do so would be to suffer something like the “Dershowitz effect” that brands independent-thinking liberal legal scholars, such as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who remain progressive but honor the law, as veritable traitors and pariahs. …

… 3) Swing Vote. A swing vote is usually a Republican who on occasion votes in a progressive mode. Kennedy supposedly had institutionalized his swing seat to the point that progressives assumed that his billet was an inheritable permanent swing slot — as long as the Court was divided and Congress was in Republican hands. In contrast, no one could ever assume that a Justice Kagan or Sotomayor would become a swing voter. This is also no such thing as a “swing” seat when there are five progressive justices on the Court.

4) The Ginsburg Rule. It’s now permissible for liberal nominees to speculate on future Court cases, or decline to speculate, whichever helps them most.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

Reader Comments