Opposition to Roberts is on Weak Ground
The speed and efficiency of the opposition to John Roberts’ nomination to the Supreme Court leaves me wondering if liberal groups are opposing John Roberts or opposing the very notion that conservative judicial philosophies have a place on the Court.
Don’t get me wrong, the criticism is quite targeted. Take MoveOn.org’s statement which says:
In nominating John Roberts, the president has chosen a right wing corporate lawyer and ideologue for the nation's highest court instead of a judge who would protect the rights of the American people. Working for mining companies, Roberts opposed clean air rules and worked to help coal companies strip-mine mountaintops. He worked with Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr), and tried to keep Congress from defending the Voting Rights Act. He wrote that Roe v. Wade should be "overruled”...
But the thing is, any nominee chosen by Bush would have a history of advocating judicial views contrary to what the left would prefer. Does that make every and any conservative justice unqualified? Are Scalia and Thomas unqualified? I’d wager many liberals would say yes.
Take the ACLU’s statement released before a nominee was known. They said they were concerned that Bush would choose “a nominee whose judicial philosophy is fundamentally opposed to the progress made in protecting individual rights over the past century.”
This is disingenuous. Just because someone opposes using the Supreme Court as the primary means to advance individual rights not delineated in the Constitution does not mean he or she is opposed to using other means to advance those same individual rights. One can think Roe v. Wade is a bad ruling from a Constitutional standpoint but still want abortion to be legal.
We hear all the time that conservative justices will lead us to segregation, the elimination of workers rights, child labor, imprisonment of homosexuals and a universal ban on abortion—to name a few evils. But that kind of talk is just playing off the tired and untrue “conservatives are evil” propaganda. A conservative Court would not seek to impose such a dark vision.
What it would do is restrict the federal government’s ability to impose rules and regulations in situations where the Constitution gives the federal government no authority to act. Yes, that could, for example, have the effect of giving states the right to abolish worker protection laws or openly discriminate against homosexuals, but it would not prohibit a state from passing its own worker protection laws or advancing broad rights for homosexuals. Nor would it prohibit the passing of a Constitutional amendment to broaden federal authority or advance individual rights.
I believe that the federal government has a vital role to play in our nation. What I don’t believe is that, should its current role be diminished, all hell will break lose. The Supreme Court is not the end-all-be-all for what individual rights we do and do not have. And just because a justice believes in a judicial philosophy that would limit federal power does not make him or her unqualified to serve.
There is room on our Supreme Court for jurists of varying judicial philosophies. To believe otherwise is to believe that there is only one obvious interpretation of the Constitution. That is wrong. And if those who oppose Roberts want to gain any traction with their effort, they’re going to have to offer more than cries of “he disagrees with us, therefore he is unqualified.”
Fact is, from all we know, justice Roberts is quite qualified. Groups like MoveOn.org are fighting a losing battle because their complaint isn’t with Roberts, it’s with the whole scope of conservative judicial philosophy. They certainly have a right to stand-up for what they believe, but their money and efforts might be better spent working towards Constitutional amendments and state laws that would cement our rights in more solid ground than a Court ruling.
As someone who is a strong supporter of individual rights, I am sympathetic to the concerns of many of these liberal groups. But I can’t in good conscience oppose Roberts. Instead, I will seek other more substantial means to ensure our individual rights remain plentiful.