There are a lot of areas where, I feel, the left has to give President Obama some leeway in how he operates. There are from time to time concessions that must be made and comprises that must be happen in order for the realistic political actions of the presidency to materialize into policy. But when it comes to the Supreme Court, there can be quarter given. When it comes to the court, the center cannot hold.
President Obama should appoint an honest-to-goodness liberal to the Supreme Court.
It is to our everlasting detriment that George W. Bush was able to appoint the relatively young Samuel Alito and John Roberts to the court, and while Souter is on the left of the court and the overall balance is unlikely to seriously shift, the president must realize (and I think he does) the value on his legacy and the history of the nation over a liberal appointment. We need a justice in the mold of Thurgood Marshall, and not someone squishy enough to be the "swing" justice in the archetype the media loves so much.
We need someone who is solid as a rock on civil rights, right to choice, limits on corporate power, and an overall progressive viewpoint on the Constitution, our laws, and the overall role the court has to play.
My gut says that President Obama understands all this, and the last 100 days have led me to believe that at the end of the day his choice will fit the bill. But he should also be constantly reminded -- especially by those of us strongly in his corner -- that he has no excuse not to act from a posture of strength. He is a popular president with an excess of political capital and a strong mandate to lead. His party dominates both houses of congress. We can work on a give and take with the conservative right around the margins of the important issues of the day like health care, the environment, etc. But these people can be allowed little to no influence over the choice of an important lifetime appointment like the next justice.
Can we get a progressive supreme court justice that will stand up for America's values on the bench? Yes, we can.