What it Looks Like When Democrats Aren't Wimps

New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie recently terminated Supreme Court Justice John Wallace, a moderate and professional jurist, and replaced him with Anne Patterson, a lawyer who has largely devoted her life to defending big, arrogant corporations. Jersey governors have the power to oust or reappoint for life a justice after their seven-year first term. Christie claimed he fired Wallace so he could begin appointing judges who won't impose their personal viewpoints (i.e. liberal), but will just follow the constitution and the laws as passed by the legislature. (i.e. will be a shill for big business and conservative causes). Wallace was actually a moderate Democrat and Christie, when pressed, couldn't cite one case Wallace decided "incorrectly".

But that didn't deter Christie, a bulldog of a pol, determined to solidify his conservative base and become a national Republican hero. If Democrats act tough in response to Christie's move, they could stop him from turning New Jersey's court into a servant for big business and other right wing causes, and at the same time show the rest of the nation's Democrats how to fight.

President of the New Jersey Senate, Stephen M. Sweeney, a strong union man and Democrat, had a tough answer for Christie. Stonewall. He pointed out that had Christie re-appointed Wallace, the Justice would have had to retire anyway in 22 months under the State's mandatory age 70 retirement rules. Sweeney announced he would not authorize confirmation hearings for Christie's nominee to replace Wallace. "This nomination will not be taken up by Senate Judiciary Committee," said Sweeney. The move was a potent answer to Christie. You Republicans want to politicize the judicial appointment process? You want to drop the traditional pretense that Supreme Court appointments are not political? Good! We Democrats will answer in kind.

The Republicans know how to exercise power when they get it. Republican presidents haven't been shy about pushing through truly conservative jurists like Roberts, Alito and Scalia. Under Clinton, they used a variety of tactics in the Senate to block and delay his judicial appointments. When Democrats have had power in recent decades, they appoint centrists like Breyer, Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan -- not a true progressive among them. Maybe we can learn something from Chris Christie. When you have power, appoint people who agree with your core values. When you don't have executive power, be tough. Jam up the works. Fight for what you really believe in. Swagger like Sweeney.