A Progressive Justice is a Persuasive Justice
May 4, 2009, 6:48 am
Filed under: Ian | Tags: , ,

brennanI like Linda Greenhouse a lot, but I wish she wouldn’t frame President Obama’s Supreme Court choice as one between a “persuasive” justice and a “liberal” justice. Probably the most effective Justice of the last 50 years was William Brennan, who was also among the most progressive jurists ever to sit on the United States Supreme Court.  Brennan was an unapologetic liberal, but he was also masterful at engaging in discussion and horse-trading to get conservatives like Powell, O’Connor and the younger Blackmun to join him on key votes.  He didn’t win all the time, but there is no question that American law would have lurched sharply to the right in the 1980s if Bill Brennan hadn’t been there.

Justice Brennan was only one man, but he counted as two or three votes.

Indeed, if the electoral disasters of the 1990s and 2000s taught progressives anything, it should be that you can’t act like a mealy-mouthed moderate and expect anyone to be persuaded by what you have to say—just as President Kerry how far his “nuanced” stance on the Iraq War got him.  Supreme Court Justices are no different then anyone else, and Justice Kennedy is much more likely to be swayed by a Brennanesque Justice than by one who is constantly afraid of appearing “too liberal.”


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