Perspicacious Adam Liptak of the NYT reports that John Paul Stevens’s retirement will leave no Protestants on the Supreme Court, but he insists that religion doesn’t mean anything now anyway.
"The practical reality of life in America is that religion plays much less of a role in everyday life than it did 50 or 100 years ago,” said Geoffrey R. Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago. Adding a Protestant to the court, he said, would not bring an important element to its discussions…
It was not ever thus. Presidents once looked at two main factors in picking justices.
“Historically, religion was huge,” said Professor Epstein of Northwestern. “It was up there with geography as the key factor.”..
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said that society is past worrying about a nominee’s religious affiliations.
“No one regarded Ginsburg and Breyer as filling a Jewish seat,” she said of herself and Justice Stephen G. Breyer in a 2003 speech at the Brandeis School of Law in Louisville, Ky. “Both of us take pride in and draw strength from our heritage, but our religion simply was not relevant to President Clinton’s appointment.”
I can’t help but notice that the people who say that religion doesn’t matter are mostly Jews (by my count: Chicago’s Geoffrey Stone, Lee Epstein, Ginsburg). Do you believe that Ginsburg’s Jewishness meant nothing to Clinton, as she claims? This is self-delusion. As if it were coincidence that both Clinton picks were Jewish. But Clinton’s administration represented the great Jewish arrival in the Establishment; which is why David Frum even says that Clinton was (then) the most philo-Semitic presidency in history. And Clinton’s team was on Israel’s side at Camp David.
Does the Jewish establishment have any ability to reflect on its incredible rise and ask, what does this mean? Apparently not. It is a verboten subject. I know why: because the Jewish professional success #s were just like this in pre-Nazi Central European cities (as Jerry Muller writes in his great new book, Capitalism and the Jews; he says in the late-19th century some Jews bragged about the dominance).
Liptak allows that Catholicism matters:
[In 2007 Geoffrey Stone] wrote an opinion article in The Chicago Tribune after the Supreme Court upheld the federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act in Gonzales v. Carhart.
“Here is a painfully awkward observation: All five justices in the majority in Gonzales are Roman Catholic,” Professor Stone wrote. “The four justices who are not all followed clear and settled precedent.”
Of course the Jewish justices were against the partial-birth abortion ban. Of course the political culture of Establishment Jews is pro-abortion rights, pro-women’s rights– these are central concerns. And Palestinian rights are down the crapper. Not that there’s a Supreme Court angle, but who knows.
I wish that the establishment Protestants would get up off the mat and tell us about their political culture. Maybe they have something distinctive to add. They better hurry. Liptak says that two of Obama’s considerees are Jewish.