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Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Winning Elections: It’s the Supreme Court, All Y’all

Later today, the first candidate for the 2016 Democratic presidential nominating contest will throw her hat into the ring.

No, not her. She is doing a great job right where she is. She is just a reminder of what is at stake.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will officially enter the Democratic Party nominating contest. There will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth … and then the Republicans will weigh in, too! I believe their slogan will be “First the black guy, now the girl!?!1!!”

It should come as no surprise that I expect to weigh in as well and my theme for 2016 will be simple: we need to nominate the strongest candidate possible for the general election. This is not a “take the party back to our grassroots!” election, this is not a time to show our purity and consider only candidates who have never met anyone on Wall Street, this is not a time to dredge up the parts of the past that are unlikely to be good predictors of the future: it is a time to come together and emerge as strong as possible from the primary season and well positioned for the general election.

There are core Democratic Party principles that should guide all of our candidates. There are also hot button issues that make a candidate less attractive or more attractive to certain groups. But the only litmus test should be: can our candidate win in 2016?

Reason number 1: The Supreme Court (and the appellate courts and the district courts).

The next president could have the opportunity to choose 3 or 4 new justices for the Supreme Court. The chance to tilt the court to the left is a real possibility.

President Barack Obama appointed two justices for the Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen. Justice Sotomayor became the first Latina on the court and holds dear the values most  Democrats embrace.

More …

Last month Justice Sotomayor spoke to students at Davidson College, a liberal arts school in North Carolina, and shared her judicial philosophy and philosophy of life:

Sotomayor herself is an example of diversity in a court that until recently was overwhelmingly male and white. She is known as much for her upbringing in housing projects in the Bronx as for her rulings in favor of civil liberties and social justice. She emphasized that diversity is essential to the court, because life experience – as well as legal expertise and knowledge of the Constitution – plays a vital role in how judges make decisions.

“Every life experience helps in judging,” she said. “We get cases in every field of human endeavor…so you want [justices] with broad life experiences, because those are the people you are asking to make the decisions.” […]

She has dissented on several important court rulings since her 2009 appointment by President Barack Obama, but she said she is optimistic that unjust rulings will eventually be overturned.

“We move from tolerance to intolerance and back again,” she said. “Really bad decisions have been overturned.”

But if the court is to rule in favor of justice, instead of lagging behind the rest of the country, Sotomayor said empathy has to play a part in justices’ decision-making. “When I meet someone,” she said, “I try really hard to project myself into their lives, to understand how they must be feeling.”

In this video reflecting on the talk and the reaction of the students and faculty, she stressed the need for a well-rounded education, not just in the law but in the liberal arts:

Justice Sotomayor: “Use your liberal arts education to make you rounded and whole people”.

(Link to video with the entire presentation on Vimeo is here)

Justice Sotomayor first served as a Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (nominated by President George H.W. Bush, before Republicans became completely insane) and then on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, nominated by President Bill Clinton. We build our bench (literally!) by appointing  intelligent and thoughtful jurists to our federal courts.

Those intelligent and thoughtful jurists were in evidence at last month’s celebration of the 150 year anniversary of the federal court of Eastern District of New York:

The Eastern District of New York (EDNY), with its primary courthouse located on Cadman Plaza East in Downtown Brooklyn, celebrated 150 years on Monday during a special session of the court presided over by the Chief Judge of the Eastern District Carol Amon.  Hons. Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, associate justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, and the judges of the Eastern District joined Amon. […]

The respected Supreme Court jurist [Ruth Bader Ginsburg] was given a humorous T-shirt by Hon. Amon-who is known for her sense of humor-which read “You Want the Ruth? You Can’t Handle the Ruth!” for those pressuring the 82-year-old justice to retire from the Supreme Court bench.  Ginsburg’s colleague, Sotomayor, did not speak at Monday’s event but will officiate a naturalization ceremony in October to commemorate the court’s anniversary.

That is what is at stake. And it requires Winning Elections.


UPDATE: We have our first Democratic Party presidential candidate as of Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 2:27 Central


  1. princesspat


    Rarely in U.S. political history has a prospective candidate come to the starting gate in a presidential campaign with as much experience, knowledge, and insight into the workings of government as Hillary Clinton does ahead of the 2016 campaign. As a liberal who has long fought for the rights of the disenfranchised, and who has battled to extend the American social contract, Hillary Clinton can and should lay claim to the mantle of Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy and Johnson – as well as to the political legacy of the two great Democrats she’s worked most closely with: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

    To be clear, neither of us believes in perfect alignment in political life. We disagree all the time on issues. We sometimes disagree with President Obama, we sometimes disagreed with President Clinton, and we disagree on occasion with Hillary Clinton. Our personal views on policy, both foreign and domestic, place us firmly in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Yet we both know that Hillary Clinton is a strong liberal who is committed through a lifetime of service to the ideals that form the foundation of our own liberalism. In short, we march under the same banner.

    This is a singular moment in American political history – but it also arrives at a crucial time for the world. As I’ve written before, over the last quarter century, Hillary Clinton has succeeded in placing the interests of women and girls atop the global development agenda. She didn’t do it alone - her partners included a network of brave human rights leaders around the world, as well as global and regional NGOs and the United Nations. But two aspects of this journey cannot be denied, even by those who dislike Clinton for political or personal reasons: she used every facet of every office and position she had to pursue this effort - from First Lady to U.S. Senator to the State Department-and her name is synonymous in the global movement for equal rights for women and girls with that ongoing fight for justice.

    How I hope the election conversation will be more about important topics and choices and less about personal attacks.  

  2. The candidate does not even appear until well into the video perhaps creating the feeling that the people are more important than the candidate herself. My only concern is that I thought I was watching a YouTube injected ad at the beginning and didn’t pay attention! I had to go back and watch the whole thing.

    The video is getting a lot of right-wing disrespect because it shows “teh gay”. Actually, it shows America … just not the one that Republicans like.

  3. HappyinVT

    I have a couple of issues, maybe three: 1) we’ve gone back in time and I’m not really interested in playing through the 1990s again; 2) I don’t trust her, I didn’t in 2008 and don’t now; 3) I’d really like to see her campaign staff because that debacle from 2008 was pitiful; and, for what it is worth, 4) this still smacks of some kind of entitlement/inevitability that is being shoved down my throat.

    I was so hoping someone shiny and new would show up.  I’m still hoping.

    Having said all that, I’ll vote and campaign and support her in the GE.   Nothing else is an option.

  4. princesspat

    HCR ’08 and The Rolling Ball of Maddness

    As I’ve said here before, most campaigns in competitive high-stakes contests are rolling balls of madness, though both major-party presidential campaigns in 2012 may have been exceptions. Green suggests that Clinton’s lack of strong intra-party competition this time around means any serious dysfunction might not emerge until the general election campaign, when there’s little time for corrective action. This strikes me as similar to the fear that some horrible secret about her will come out in August of 2016 and consign America to a Walker or Bush or Rubio or Paul administration: sure, it’s always possible, but the odds of an unvetted secret, or an imploding campaign staff, are probably lower for HRC than for anyone else you can imagine precisely because she’s been there before. Unless you think she is simply incapable of learning from mistakes, the much simpler landscape of this presidential cycle ought to make the process relatively smooth. Plus Mark Penn’s not around, though perhaps photos of him should be posted in campaign HQ with instructions that guards eject him on sight.

    Mark Penn is working at Microsoft now, but his role there seems to be changing.

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