By the time Arkansas’s two senators, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, announced their opposition to Samuel Alito last week, it had become apparent that Alito would be confirmed for a seat on the Supreme Court. They were losers, in a sense.
But the Supreme Court is not a football field, where only the scoreboard matters. It’s important that Supreme Court justices and senators who vote on them be on the side of justice, even if the side of justice is the losing side, at least temporarily. Morality counts, and moral victories are better than no victory at all.
In her announcement of opposition, Senator Lincoln smartly summed up the reasons why Alito is not fit for a seat on the nation’s highest court: “After thoroughly reviewing Judge Alito’s record during his time on the federal bench, I am left with grave and serious concerns about his views on the power and scope of Executive Branch authority, discrimination against parents in the workplace, his general disposition toward cases involving civil rights, and his views on the scope of voter rights.”
“At a time when many Arkansans have expressed concerns over the President’s legal authority to eavesdrop on Americans without court supervision and detain U.S. citizens without judicial review or due process, I cannot support a Supreme Court nominee who has repeatedly failed to uphold reasonable limits of presidential authority at the expense of constitutional liberties,” Lincoln said. Regarding discrimination in the workplace, “Judge Alito has consistently set an unfairly high burden of proof in discrimination cases leading him to rule consistently against Americans who are merely attempting to assert their basic constitutional rights.” As for voter rights, Alito has said he disagrees with “one person, one vote,” the landmark Supreme Court ruling that ensures “everyone’s vote would be weighted equally, regardless of an individual’s economic background, their address, or the color of their skin.” Lincoln’s statement did not specifically mention abortion rights, which she supports and Alito opposes, but she said later that she included abortion rights among the civil rights she said Alito had been unsympathetic to.
Pryor made one point: “While trying to give deference to the President, I cannot ignore that Judge Alito’s record demonstrates his tendency to legislate from the bench.”
Alito is a devout right-winger, more interested in ideology than justice. Ronald Reagan began appointing his sort to the federal bench in the ’80s, part of the Reagan Revolution, and every Republican president since has continued the practice. That Alito is joining a court that already has extremists like Scalia and Thomas as members is more than a little chilling. That Arkansas’s senators did not go along is some comfort. We’ll need freedom-defending legislators more than ever now.