The battle to confirm President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee has been shaping up as a grassroots brawl.
In the weeks between the death of Justice Antonin Scalia and Obama’s announcement Wednesday that he will nominate Judge Merrick B. Garland to the Supreme Court, groups on the right and left launched petitions, mobilized members, and prepared for a raw political battle, state by state, to force (or prevent) hearings and votes in the Senate.
Garland is clearly a qualified nominee, and one that many Republicans have voted to confirm in the past. But he is also a white male over 60, with an outright conservative and pro-government record on criminal justice. When Garland was considered for a vacant Supreme Court seat in 2010, SCOTUSblog wrote, “[T]o the extent that the President’s goal is to select a nominee who will articulate a broad progressive vision for the law, Judge Garland would be a very unlikely candidate to take up that role.”
In other words, the promise of a liberal reformation of the Court after Scalia is now blunted. So will some progressive activists deflate?
Some early data suggests they might. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which along with several other groups already collected 1.5 million signatures demanding a Senate vote, polled its members this week on several possible Obama picks, using short descriptions of each nominee’s pros and cons.
The PCCC shared its data on Garland with The Nation Wednesday. This is how the group described him: “Merrick Garland has been a Judge on the DC Circuit for 19 years, where he has ruled in favor of EPA regulations and that the government cannot charge defendants as ‘enemy combatants’ using hearsay evidence. However, he is viewed as a moderate and pro–law enforcement, rarely votes in favor of defendants appealing criminal convictions, and barred Guantánamo detainees from seeking relief in US courts.”
Only 35 percent of PCCC members said they were very or somewhat likely to “take action” on the nomination, and help “push Republicans” for a vote. Fifty-nine percent said they were somewhat or very unlikely to take action. Among all the nominees PCCC tested, this was the largest gulf in willingness to take action by far.