As we wind down the Democratic primary race for the presidency, we are left with a sense of tension and division. It has been a long road with attacks from both parties against each other and a split among the various demographic groups comprising our voting base.
I have accepted at this point that I will not see my dream of a woman president in my lifetime. Just as African-Americans have flocked to Barack Obama in droves that reflect their desire to see one of their own succeed, women, too, have voted for Hillary Clinton to witness the ultimate “glass” ceiling shattered.
The polls indicate that both Obama supporters and Clinton supporters may desert the Democratic party to vote for John McCain. This is a betrayal which cannot be justified. We are Democrats first; then we pick our candidates to support.
But overshadowing our current divisions is the specter that no one seems to be discussing. That is the ability the next president will have to appoint at least one justice and perhaps more. We cannot let that individual be John McCain.
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Justice John Paul Stevens recently turned 88 and has been on the Court since December 1975. Although he was appointed by Ford, he is rumored by court watchers to be delaying his exit until the “right” individual takes office. At close to 90 years old, odds are he will exit during the next president’s term.
Four other justices are either now in their 70s or within a few months of being so. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75 and survived a bout with colo-rectal cancer in 1999. Anthony Kennedy and Antonin Scalia were born within a few months of each other in 1936 making them 72 years old. Stephan Breyer rounds out the septuagenarians, turning 70 this summer. David Souter is 68 while Clarence Thomas will turn 60 this summer – a George H.W. Bush appointment in 1991. The two youngest, Samuel Alito and John Roberts are 58 and 53 respectively.
Supreme Court justices serve for life once confirmed. They are selected for their ideological and philosophical views – views that closely match the president responsible for their selection. While a president serves for eight years at the most, Supreme Court justices impact our society and its laws for 20 to 30 years.
Long after the next president is gone, his appointments will be sitting on the bench, making decisions that impact our rights and liberties. Those justices will reflect the views of the next president, and that person cannot be John McCain.
So while I work through my disappointment, I will not lose sight of the fact that I am a Democrat first. And my obligation is to work as hard as possible to ensure that our next president is a Democrat who will appoint justices holding our Democratic values and beliefs.