What to Make of the Roberts Nomination

I spent some time last night and this morning digging on Dubya’s Supreme Court nominee John Roberts. Ultimately, though, I’m going to have to join Chris at Organic Matter in thanking others for digging up the details. Chris points to Dave Roberts’ overview at Gristmill and People for the American Way’s report on the nominee. Some other sources I’ve found

  • The Alliance for Justice has posted a synopsis of Judge Roberts’ career, and a longer report (in PDF).
  • DailyKos has a pretty extensive overview, also.
  • Ezra Klein has some thoughts on the Democrats should proceed on the Roberts nomination. In short, hold off on the most extreme options until Roberts has had a chance to answer direct questions on his record.

And my own thoughts (for what they’re worth): I’m certainly concerned about the environmental record Roberts has compiled as a lawyer and judge, and hope this receives adequate attention during Senate confirmation hearings. At the same time, though, I think it’s important for progressives to get beyond their single issues and look at the big picture. Roberts, if confirmed, will be on the Court for a long time. The observation that he’s not a “movement conservative” (a phrase I can only translate as “right-wing nutjob”) doesn’t particularly comfort me — if I remember right, no one would’ve characterized Clarence Thomas that way at the time of his confirmation, either, but the movement folks certainly love him now. I am reminded of a passage from The Soul of Environmentalism:

The second area of particular importance right now concerns efforts to promote sexual freedom, including the pro-choice and reproductive rights movement and the gay rights movement. As the iconic environmental scientist George Woodwell pointed out recently, environmentalism and a woman’s right to choose are inextricably linked — they are both human rights.

It is inconsistent to block a woman’s right to choose — or a gay person’s right to marry — while advocating free choice in the destruction of species or landscapes. How do conservatives do that, and how have our allies in those movements responded? How do we broaden our connections?

Environmentalism must connect with and be of service to a broader social movement. (my emphasis)

The Roberts nomination could provide an opportunity for environmentalists and other progressive groups (particularly the pro-choice movement) to further forge our bonds. Ezra’s probably right that we won’t win this fight (at least if we define winning as keeping Roberts off the Supreme Court), but if a stronger, more integrated progressive movement arises from the confirmation process, we will have made progress.

Of course, I’m very interested in hearing your reactions to the nomination.

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