3 women on high court long overdue?I was born a few years after Elena Kagan, so I really appreciated that, at age 50, President Barack Obama’s new Supreme Court nominee is consistently referred to as “young.”
By: Betsy Hart, The Dickinson Press
I was born a few years after Elena Kagan, so I really appreciated that, at age 50, President Barack Obama’s new Supreme Court nominee is consistently referred to as “young.” I know, I know — the commentators probably mean “relatively young” for what she has accomplished, including becoming the dean of Harvard Law School at age 43 and now likely joining the Supreme Court for decades.
Nonetheless, I like seeing “young” and “age 50” in the same sentence for just about any reason.
What I don’t like from the media and commentators are the many gushing references to the “historic” situation of potentially having three women Supreme Court justices at the same time. ABC News’ Diane Sawyer was just one anchor to become giddy over the “history-making” day for that reason. But Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada may have best summed up the typical elite sentiment when he said of the Kagan nomination: If she is confirmed, “... the Supreme Court will have three sitting female justices for the first time — a historic occurrence that is long overdue.”
“Long overdue”? Why?
The irony is that there’s no chance Reid would have made the same statement if there were going to be on the Supreme Court three women who thought along the lines of, say, Sarah Palin, or any other conservative woman. Kagan is sure to be a reliable liberal vote, and since she was appointed by a liberal president, her womanhood can be celebrated.
For some reason, women only bring “diversity” to public life when they share a commitment to abortion rights in particular — and a liberal political ethos in general.
Ronald Reagan was the first president to appoint a woman to the high court, Sandra Day O’Connor, in 1981. But he received little political credit for it from the chattering classes, mainly because they didn’t like Reagan, but also because they didn’t think much of her more socially moderate views.
I myself count that appointment as a mistake considering how often O’Connor voted with court liberals. Reagan should have appointed instead the far more qualified and intellectually rigorous Robert Bork. (Because the Senate was in Republican hands in 1981, Bork could well have been confirmed.)
That’s my point. “Long overdue?” Says who? This is a woman who would far rather have an all-male court that upholds the Constitution than a female-dominated court that will shred it because of a political agenda.
There is little doubt that Kagan is a judicial heavyweight, albeit a liberal one, which is likely what Obama was looking for. He wasn’t aiming for more votes on the court — as Kagan would only replace another steadfast liberal, John Paul Stevens — but, rather, it appears he sought intellectual heft to compete with conservatives like Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia. Fine. She seems well qualified. (In and of itself, I’m not bothered by her lack of court experience.) Barring some catastrophe, she’ll easily pass Senate confirmation.
For the sake of my daughters and daughters everywhere, can we please move past the accolades for Kagan’s gender? What should matter is only how she thinks about things.
If we ever get to that point when it comes to women in public positions, then we might finally have some real diversity.
But by all means, let’s keep reiterating that little tidbit about her being “50” and “young.”
— Hart writes for Scripps Howard News Service. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.