The Lasting Legacy of the Courts

In 1992 I argued with a good friend – a Republican – that the worst outcome of re-electing George Bush (the only one we knew about at the time) would be the effect on the Supreme Court. More conservative judges, more decisions that negatively impacted our lives as women, as lesbians, as private (as opposed to corporate) citizens. I was overly aggressive in my argument; accusing Republicans of having selfish, monetary motives when opposing social welfare and cultural programs, such as Head Start, Medicaid, the National Endowment of the Arts, etc. I finally noticed that my friend was backing up, waving her hands in front of me, saying, “Whoa, whoa!” We will still say we are friends, but I don’t think we’ve had a meaningful conversation in twenty years.
I believe that the strongest lasting impact of a presidency is the construction of the national judiciary – both the Supreme Court and other Federal courts. SCOTUS in 2012 can give a win to Citizens United over real citizens by refusing to reconsider that ruling, but then uphold the Affordable Care Act, making me think that additional reasonable decisions could come out of the 2013 session.
My conversations with friends in this election year are going to be more moderate in delivery than those I had in 1992, but my argument is going to be the same: a President is going to be around for 4 or 8 years, but the Justices and Judges can serve for decades.

Pioneering Spirit?

Can you say you still have a pioneering spirit if everywhere you go, you’ve been before? I spent the first 30 years breaking new ground and the next 30 following familiar paths, revisiting known pleasures. The itchy, restive wanderlust hasn’t diminished, but the courage to leave the marked trail has. I stand in the West in the Spring, looking East – but down the Interstate now, not the two-lane.