In this context, it's quite interesting to remember that the issue of Supreme Court appointments was not emphasized in the 2004 election. A few weeks before the election, I wrote a post titled "What we're not talking about":
[W]hat is not being talked about that you would have thought you'd hear plenty about?Bush won (and Kerry lost) on other issues, chiefly national security. A lot of people who voted for Bush -- myself included -- would have been happier with a liberal hawk. Our vote for Bush doesn't represent a preference for more judges like Scalia and Thomas (as Bush promised us during the campaign).
Supreme Court appointments! This was a huge issue in the 2000 election, when we were told the next President was sure to appoint two and maybe even three or four new Justices, and we--especially we women--were encouraged to feel quite alarmed about it. Here's speculation about particular appointments, in the October 4 Newsweek (including the ridiculous notion that President Kerry might appoint Hillary Clinton to the Supreme Court). The Sacramento Bee today asserts that "All Eyes" are "on Aging Justices," which, first of all, is not true (no one seems to be bothering); and second of all, is offensively ghoulish. (Why are we so solicitous of the needs of old voters, but openly take a deathwatch attitude about old Justices?) The Bee article is not based on statements by the candidates and notes that Kerry hasn't made the issue a "centerpiece" of his campaign. It quotes those who would like to see the issue on the front burner. Here's an AP article noting the absence of candidate attention to the issue.
I see there's a Daily Kos piece from Saturday, "Crank up The Supreme Court as an Issue in this Campaign!"Is there any reason the Kerry campaign isn't making the Supreme Court a HUGE issue? ...As if the Kerry campaign might somehow have just forgotten about abortion and the standard way to make it a big issue. (Those Justices aren't getting any farther from the grave!)
There's been a lot of talk recently about a possible decline in support amongst women for John Kerry. How about ratcheting up the Roe v. Wade/Supreme Court issue in the last few weeks?
Why don't the reporters delve into the question why the Kerry campaign decided to drop the issue? I could speculate, here in my dining room in Madison, Wisconsin: Some research showed the issue hurt Kerry. But why don't the professional journalists reveal the actual strategies of the campaigns? The AP reporter -- prompted by Kos? -- just dusts the cobwebs off the old deathwatch warnings heard in the 2000 campaign and calls up the head of a "liberal-leaning" group and a "conservative-leaning" group for some stock verbiage.
Could Kerry have torn away enough Bush votes if he'd used the Supreme Court issue? I rather doubt it. I myself was fully aware of the consequences with respect to the Supreme Court, whether Kerry talked about it or not. But the national security issues were more important to me. The Democrats would like to have a shot at some Supreme Court appointments, and we might very much like to see those appointments, but unless they produce a candidate who can satisfy national security-minded liberals, it's not going to happen.