Of course, it is interesting to note that President Obama's approval rating continued its decline (now only 44%) in the latest Quinnipiac poll
. But if I were inclined to be cheered by this number and I were also thinking about how to drive it even lower for November, I'd also find in this poll a reason for pause:
Obama gets another selection for the Supreme Court this year, and voters
trust him (46%) more than they do Senate Republicans (43%) to make the
right choice. More (47%) believe that only qualifications should be
considered by senators when voting on a nominee, while 43% believe
political views should be a factor. Fifty-two percent approve of his
first selection, Justice Sonia Sotomayor.
Considering the momentum of the Tea Parties and the massive unpopularity of Congress (they only get 20% approval) there seems to be a disconnect between the mood of the electorate on these matters and their inclination to trust Obama more than Senate Republicans to make the right choice when it comes to the Court.
What might explain it?
And, further, what does it suggest about the coming debates this summer over the Constitution? A Supreme Court nomination ought to be a prime opportunity for conservatives in Congress to showcase their understanding of the Constitution and to lay the groundwork for a principled defense of their policy ideas for this November.
But consider this suggestion from Obama
today that when it comes to selecting a nominee he will not seek to impose a "litmus test" on abortion rights although, clearly, his language about "privacy rights" and women's rights suggests that he not only means to do precisely that, but that he intends to seek to lay down the terms of debate about his nominee in precisely these terms. Conservatives should not be fooled. This is a preemptive move on the part of Obama and the Democrats to turn the discussion surrounding his nominee away from the one thing that would be most helpful to Republicans--a substantive discussion of the meaning and purpose of the Constitution and what that may mean for understanding the limits on federal powers in the Constitution--and instead, to pretend that the central focus of any debate about the Constitution and the Courts interpreting it is the question of "privacy."
The "leave me alone" sentiment of the Tea Party movement, combined with the inability to effectively make a persuasive political case for conservative social policies (and their ties to the Constitution) make this an interesting--and not completely unpromising--choice for a last ditch effort on the part of the Obama people. Interestingly, "privacy" seems only to interest Progressives like Obama when it comes to the consequences
surrounding things people do in their bedrooms. They aren't particularly keen about "leaving people alone" when it comes to things like . . . well, eating
or voicing an opinion
(especially if that opinion makes them look bad), or even in keeping the things that people do in their bedrooms private.
But to take up this discussion borders on falling into a trap. Obama would like nothing better in this political climate than to focus on the still highly volatile question of abortion and all other divisive social questions surrounding the meaning of "privacy" and a supposed right to it in the Constitution. Although it is not saying much, it is the strongest hand he's got at the moment.
This could work if conservatives lose focus.
When Obama makes public his pick for the Court next month, I do not suggest that conservatives ignore what is sure to be a very bad record and indications about the inclinations of the nominee with respect to Roe
. But I do suggest that there is no amount of wishing or pushing that is going to make the nominee any less bad in this respect. It would be far smarter politics for Conservatives to take this tip of the hand Obama's giving us and pull out some stronger cards of their own. Refuse to engage in the fight they want to have and show your Constitutional chops on questions other than this one. It will go a long way toward reversing the only numbers Obama's got going in his favor right now.