For better or worse, there's more than a dime's worth of difference between Obama and Willard
I love this infographic concocted by ThinkProgress's Ian Millhiser and Adam Peck. Click on it to enlarge.
We'll come back to the ThinkProgress infographic in a moment.
As I've mentioned here before, possibly many times, my experience with the "not a dime's worth of difference" meme dates back to the Humphrey-Nixon race of 1968. There were then, goodness knows, scads of things to be said against Humphrey, who by then represented the worst of the legacy of the abruptly ending Johnson administration.
It was especially painful development for me, because in the dawning of my political consciousness in the earlier '60s Hubert Humphrey had established himself as one of my political heroes, based on a political career that remains for me one of the most inspiring examples of an indomitable progressive crusading and bringing about real social progress. That is, until he found himself in a position to slip into the corridors of real power in D.C. We found out in due time how little regard Lyndon Johnson actually had for him, but it was LBJ who had brought him into the inner circle, thereby providing me with one of my early up-close and personal lessons in the corrupting effect of power.
During the 1968 campaign, a lot of my college-age cohorts were adamant that there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between Humphrey and Nixon, which dumbfounded me. I mean, we were talking about . . . Nixon. And never mind that by the standards of 2012 right-wing crackpottery the Nixon of 1968 was a radical socialist. My college-newspaper editorial board split down the middle between a Humphrey endorsement and no endorsement, eventually tipping 3-2 for the Humphrey option, for which I had to write the consequent editorial. It was a hard sell then, and it hasn't become any easier now that it seems to be the standard pattern of our presidential elections.
As Howie and I have both said in varying ways, one of the most tragic aspects of the Republican Party's complete withdrawal from reality and the realm of real-world government is the disastrous effect it has had on the Democratic Party. Even when putative Democrats aren't actively trying to compete with wigged-out Republicans on right-wing political turf, so-called "realists" among party thinkers and strategists have reached the logical conclusion that they have no obligation, indeed no reason, to position themselves as anything more responsible than "better than those guys."
But one thing we can always fall back on is the Supreme Court. It's true that those extraordinarily able and honorable, not to mention sorely missed, moderate justices John Paul Stevens and David Souter were Republican appointees, but I think it's safe to say that in our lifetimes no Republican president will make mistakes like that again. In support of which, let me just reprise five names: Reagan appointees Nino Scalia and Anthony Kennedy, Bush Sr. appointee Clarence Thomas, and Bush Jr. abominations "Smirkin' John" Roberts and "Sammy the Hammer" Alito. And remember that the likely next departure will be that of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (There's a now-discredited theory to be advanced that an even further rightward lunge might have some moderating effect on Justice Kennedy. I clung to that hope when Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito took their seats. "Slow Anthony" emphatically disproved it.)
The political spectrum has already moved so far to the right that we know now that no president in the foreseeable future will even consider appointing an actual judicial liberal. Still, moderates like Justices Sotomayor and Kagan are worlds removed from what we can expect to be tapped by a President Willard. Can the country afford another Roberts or Alito? And remember too that it's not just the Supreme Court that's at stake. Thanks to the wall of Republican obstruction, and the Obama administration's inability or unwillingness to fight for its appointees, the huge number of vacancies that existed at the lower levels of the federal courts in 2001 has been minimally filled, and new vacancies continue to occur.
The truly terrifying prospect is if the Republicans manage to regain control of the Senate, and that astonishingly debased cohort of numbskulls and thugs that now make up the minority on the Judiciary Committee find themselves the majority. These are truly some of the worst people on the planet, who even in the minority have had a powerfully abusive effect on the judicial appointment and confirmation process.
NOW, TO GET BACK TO THE THINKPROGRESS INFOGRAPHIC
The Roberts Court (and the justices' ages come January): Justices Thomas (64), Sotomayor (58), Scalia (76), Breyer (74), Roberts (turns 58 on the 27th), Alito (62), Kennedy (76), Kagan (52), and Ginsburg (79). (Click to enlarge.)
In introducing the above infographic, ThinkProgress's Ian Millhiser and Adam Peck explain:
On Monday, the Center for American Progress Action Fund released a report outlining many of the Supreme Court cases that could be overruled if President Obama appoints just one progressive to replace a member of the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc — or, alternatively, what happens if Gov. Romney makes the Court even more conservative. Here are five examples of cases that are likely to be overruled in an Obama Supreme Court or in a Romney Supreme Court.
Ian and Adam remind us: "Four of the Court’s nine current members are over the age of 74, so the winner of November’s election could reshape the Court considerably," and we have to keep squarely in mind how audacious and aggressive the Roberts Court has been in rewriting the Constitution. The writers encourage us "to learn about more cases that are on the cusp of being overruled" by reading the full report, which is titled "An Obama Supreme Court Versus a Romney High Court."