Law professor Steven Calabresi argues in the Weekly Standard that the Democratic strategy in the confirmation wars is organized around the principle of preventing Republicans from grooming conservative African Americans, Hispanics, women, or Catholics for the Supreme Court. Calebresi’s theory (at least the African Americans and women part) would explain why the Democrats reportedly have offered to abandon their filibuster of white male nominees William Myers and Thomas Myers, if the Republicans would abandon Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown (an African American female). It would also help explain the Democrats’ bogus argument that Owen and Brown are outside of the mainstream despite the fact that the votes of Texas and California (yes, California) respectively have elected them to the Supreme Court by overwhelming margins.
But why would the Democrats focus their wrath on females and minority group members? Here’s Calabresi’s answer:
Because these. . .nominees threaten to split the Democratic base by aligning conservative Republicans with conservative voices in the minority community and appealing to suburban women. The Democrats need Bush to nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court whom they can caricature and vilify, and it is much harder for them to do that if Bush nominates the judicial equivalent of a Condi Rice rather than a John Ashcroft. . . .Conservative African-American, Hispanic, Catholic, and female judicial candidates also drive the left-wing legal groups crazy because they expose those groups as not really speaking for minorities or women. They thus undermine the moral legitimacy of those groups and drive a wedge between the left-wing leadership of those groups and the members they falsely claim to represent.
The Democrats’ strategy also holds a potential pay-off for another reason. President Bush would probably like to appoint a Hispanic Supreme Court Justice. Because the Democrats blocked Miguel Estrada, a strong conservative, from the court of appeals a few years ago, Bush does not have the option of appointing Estrada to the high court. This increases the likelihood that Bush will turn to Alberto Gonzales, who could become the next Justice Kennedy or O’Connor (herself elevated from obscurity so that Ronald Reagan could appoint the first female Justice).
There really can’t be any true compromise with the Democrats on this matter.