Health Care Distractions, Round Two: Supreme Court Openings

Apologies for this week’s abbreviated posting schedule. Moving is hard, but apparently, for TimeWarner Cable, flipping one goddamn switch is even harder.

During last year’s election, we predicted that the next President would have between two and three Supreme Court appointments, in fairly quick succession: Souter, who was just waiting for a Democratic President to hand his seat to; Stevens, who despite his continued clarity is getting on in years; and Ginsburg, who may be forced to retire soon for health reasons (although we hope not). As of this week, we may be 2 for 3 — the AP reports that comparing Stevens’ clerkship hires against previous years suggest that he may not be long for the Court.

Stevens, of course, will be missed. He’s been a reliable vote for the progressive Constitution, with an eye for the nuances that make or break complex cases. Obama will get Stevens’ seat during his first term, there’s no question. If he gets it soon, though, it could be doubly beneficial.

As we noted with Sotomayor’s appointment, the Supreme Court needs a replenishment of progressive jurists, which Sotomayor represents, but it also needs a strong, clear voice for gay rights. Lawrence v. Texas and Loving v. Virginia represent the logical leaps needed to bring about a federal right to gay marriage — we just need someone to close the syllogism. Now is the time to get her confirmed. Changes in the political climate mean that gay rights is an issue we can win, and while it remains so, it’s one we ought to start.  Appointing Pamela Karlan to fill Stevens’ seat, when it comes, would be a good start.

A progressive pick could also serve to reinvigorate Obama’s left-wing supporters, who are, I admit, badly in need of comfort, especially in a week when the public option is starting to look even more unlikely, while splitting the right’s focus. Gay rights remains, for a select portion of increasingly irrelevant voters, the ultimate divider, and the ultimate distractor. Time to bust a Rove, as it were, but for the right reasons, and towards the right conclusion.

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