Here’s what I think the Supreme Court should look like ideologically:
- Three independent centrists.
Two principled but somewhat flexible liberals.
Two principled but somewhat flexible conservatives.
One right-wing nutjob.
One left-wing nutjob.
where by “nutjob” I simply mean someone who forcefully, perhaps even stridently, defends his/her philosophical position even when making concessions might be the easier thing to do.
Such a Court, I believe, would be more likely to hew a centrist course while remaining open to partisan views.
I think that such a configuration, if it ever were to be achieved, should then be maintained – so that if someone leaves the Court for whatever reason, the next nominee should be someone in that same ideological position. This should make the nomination and confirmation process far less contentious.
The present configuration would IMHO look somewhat like this:
- Leftwing nutjob: VACANT
Principled but flexible liberal: Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, Breyer
Independent centrist: Kennedy
Principled but flexible conservative: Roberts, Alito
Rightwing nutjob: Scalia, Thomas
So today’s announcement re Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination to replace retiring Justice David Souter will probably not change that balance significantly – and we will still have some work to do in the future to get an optimal ideological mix.