One of the reasons many people voted for George Bush was that whoever the next president was would have a chance to reshape the judiciary.
Don’t hold your breath. In a must-read article in the Washington Times, legal scholar Bruce Fein explains what might actually happen:
“Senate Democrats would eagerly vote to confirm a second edition of Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun. The opportunity may arise if Senate Republicans shy from ending Democrat filibusters of judicial nominees.
“By requiring 60 votes for confirmation, a filibuster would force President George W. Bush to compromise his pledge to appoint justices in the image of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. (Judicial filibusters also contradict Article II, section 2 of the Constitution, which enshrines a simple majority yardstick for judicial confirmations; the practice rests on the alarming principle the Senate may destroy the judicial branch by refusing to vote on any nominee).”
As Fein notes, Blackmun was everything Democrats want in a Supreme Court Justice–with the added fillip that they could always point out that he was nominated by a Republican:
“Justice Blackmun epitomized what Democrats halo as a ’mainstream’ jurist. He was nominated by President Richard Nixon in 1970. A Democrat-controlled Senate quickly confirmed Blackmun by a unanimous 94-0 vote. The ’consensus’ justice served 24 years on the high court as a reliable ally of liberal icons William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall.
“He was endowed with flabby cerebral faculties. His opinions were more visceral than reasoned. He conceived his vocation as priesthood for proselytizing personal moral epiphanies. And he permitted partisan politics to influence his judicial actions.”
In short, Blackmun was a mediocrity who gave liberals what they wanted (including Roe v. Wade, which, arguably has been all the more divisive for having been decided by the court rather than state legislatures).