Monday, May 10, 2010

Why Kagan And Not Wood?

I think Kevin Drum gives substantially the right answer to the question in my title (my emphasis):

“[R]ight now Obama has the biggest Democratic majority in the Senate he's ever going to have. So why not use it to ensure a solidly progressive nominee like Diane Wood instead of an ideological cipher like Kagan?

“This isn't the worst thing in the world. It's not as if I think Kagan is a reactionary in sheep's clothing or anything like that. But I still don't get it. When Obama compromises on something like healthcare reform, that's one thing. Politics sometimes forces tough choices on a president. But why compromise on presidential nominees? . . . Why Elena Kagan? He doesn't have to do this. Unfortunately, the most likely answer is: he does it because he wants to. Some socialist, eh?”
I’ve said before why I don’t think there’s that much difference between Wood and Kagan. But suppose Drum is right that Wood is “solidly progressive” while Kagan is an “ideological cipher.” Does that mean, as Drum’s parting question suggests, that picking Kagan marks Obama as a regrettably centrist president? Can’t he be an uncompromising champion of liberal values and still believe that remaking a pluralistic democracy to liberal specifications is the job of elected politicians rather than unelected judges?

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