Elena Kagan is a New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself

After long thought, I think the best popculture response to the Elena Kagan nomination is this:

Alvy Singer’s rant against Allison Porchnik in Annie Hall sums up my gut reaction after these past few days. Usually when I reference Woody Allen, its to lend praise to our Jewish alpha dog, who first introduced the idea that the nebbish, neurotic Jewish guy can actually get the girl… kinda. But in this circumstance the line speaks for itself. However, thats not to say that my only opposition is out of some sort of self-loathing or Texan hatred of everything Northeast. Though that may be part of it. Indeed, my strongest reason for opposition (or at least not complete support) is political. She is not liberal enough.

Elena Kagan isn’t simply liberal enough. Despite accusations of her insane socialism, largely based on her Princeton senior thesis, which I have yet to read (PDF: kagan thesis), she has shown a record of middling DLC-style political compromise . There are legitimate arguments to be made for strong liberal positions on the court. Where is the justice arguing for substantive due process protection of medicinal marijuana, not to mention gay marriage? Where is the justice arguing for broader expansion of the equal protection clause, not to mention restarting privileges and immunities? These arguments exist, and in fact have been almost made on the Supreme Court (Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health, Lawrence v. Texas ). But the real person to blame for this isn’t Kagan, who must be honest to herself, but Obama himself for nominating her. Former Justice Joseph Crouch explains how I think lots of people feel:

(BTW, you should totally buy the West Wing box set. It is awesome.)

Now, one could argue that her past positions have not been judicial, but political, and thus her actions should be viewed through a different frame. Or that while she has a short record, Obama can guarantee a strong liberal position. And one could argue while that position may be far out where they should be, the goals now shouldn’t be to expand the liberal agenda, but to maintain the gains made over the past decades. I disagree.

I do not expect a broadening of liberty interests to be the majority opinion, but I want someone on the court to just make the arguments. Young conservatives read the opinions of Scalia and Thomas, and it gives them a drive and inspiration to power their youthful political interests. Liberals have to look back a few decades to really get that inspiration. Even simply considering whether to get involved in the legal field, strong conservatives see that they can go far if they stick to their principles, just as the relatively young Roberts and Alito were rewarded. Liberals get the message that if they want to succeed, they need to keep a clean record and not create a strong record for liberal causes. Democrats seem to view that record as a liability, rather than how conservatives see their own similar recrds as a strength. This merely drives liberal opinion to the center and alienates liberal ideas that are reasonable and rational, yet viewed as too far out. And those views will continue to be seen as too far out by the public, while far-winger conservative ideologies in the form of  justices’ opinions will be thrust into the public sphere as supposedly normal political views, hiding their extremity.

And what is the purpose of opposing this conservative march if those who fight for strong liberal causes get left behind when it comes to choose our best? A functioning political system needs strong opposing parties, with competing ideas, and the Democrats are laying down on their job.

Indeed, it doesn’t just show that Obama has refused to recognize the best and brightest legal mind amongst liberal thinkers, but it shows that he is betraying one of the implicit messages of his 2008 campaign: The importance of grassroots work.

As Obama’s personal origins and the style of his campaign seemed to communicate: greatness can come from anywhere. Whether the small town volunteers who made history or Obama’s humble beginnings and fairytale rise, it was about eschewing the usual power structure and replacing it with people power. But for his supreme court nomination, Obama went with the traditional Ivy League, Upper West Side, Harvard Law School, Clintonista insider, almost as if she were a creation by Mark Penn himself.

There were great candidates with strong liberal opinions, from outside the usual view political realms of influence. Great justices from Texas, Montana, or even California, who could disrupt the usual power patterns and show students all across the country that you don’t need to go to an Ivy League school to make it to the top: Pedigree is not the measure of the day, but talent and achievement. But that is not what Obama is communicating with this nomination.

Even just choosing someone who didn’t go to an Ivy League school would send the message that states are not destiny. We can have smart, educated liberal justices in Red States, just as we can from Blue States. This is something that Obama himself talked about oh so long ago in 2004″

We have Supreme Court Justices in the Red States… or do we? Obama doesn’t seem to think so, with his New York domination. His choices may be fine justices, but it is a sign that liberals from Red States shouldn’t aspire or work hard, because they won’t be recognized. And it sends a message to people in Red States that liberals do not care about them, and when push comes to shove, Democrats will alway choose the Northeast buddy… giving in to Harvard nepotism. There used to be a time when Obama thought it was important to send a message anyone can rise to greatness, that America has a place for a skinny kid with a funny name.

But I guess that idea is old hat. Go back with the tried a true, Harvard educated, East Coast Elite, Smartest Guys in the Room. That’s worked out great for Democrats in the past.


2 responses to “Elena Kagan is a New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself

  1. Being a graduate from an Ivy League school is not a negative. The negative is that the Supreme Court is losing Educational Diversity amongst its members. A very simple example could be vanilla ice cream. Everyone likes vanilla ice cream. The problem arises when you limit your diet exclusively to vanilla ice cream. You get lots of calcium, but you lose out on all of the other needed vitamins and minerals to live a healthy productive life. The same can be said about losing the diversity of knowledge and diverse perspectives that people from other institutions can provide. The majority of the Supreme Court Judges should not be Ivy League graduates.

    I am of the opinion that the Supreme Court is setting itself up for a challenge, as to whether or not 1) their opinions are in fact biased due to their common Ivy League education, and 2) they are engaging in discrimination, by limiting the Court to Ivy League Graduates.

    The following applies to Kagan, just as it did to Sotomajor.

    This editorial was created by 160 Associated Press readers under a Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution License 3.0 using MixedInk’s collaborative writing tool. For more about how it was created, see here. It can be republished only if accompanied by this note.

    Obamas Appointment of Sotomayor Fails to Offer Educational Diversity to Court.

    Sotomayor does not offer true diversity to our Supreme Court. The potential power of Sotomayor’s diversity as a Latina Woman, from a disadvantaged background, loses its strength because her Yale Law degree does not offer educational diversity to the current mix of sitting Judges. Once she walked through the Gates of Princeton and then Yale Law School she became educated by the same Professors that have educated the majority of our current Supreme Court Justices, and our Presidents.

    Diversity in education is extremely important. We need to look for diversity in our ideas, and if our leaders are from the same educational background, they lose the original power of their ethnic and gender diversity. The ethnic and gender diversity many of our current leaders possess no longer brings a plethora of new ideas, only the same perspective they learned from their common Ivy League education. One example of the common education problem is that Yale has been heavily influenced by a former lecturer at Yale, Judge Frank, who developed the philosophy of Legal Realism. Frank argued that Judges should not only look at the original intent of the Constitution, but they should also bring in outside influences, including their own experiences in order to determine the law. This negative interpretation has influenced both Conservatives and Liberals graduating from Yale. It has been said that Legal Realism has infested Yale Law School and turned lawyers into political activists.

    A generation of appointees with either a Harvard or Yale background, has the potential to distort the proper interpretation of our Constitution. America needs to decentralize the power structure away from the Ivy League educated individual and gain from the knowledgeable and diverse perspectives that people from other institutions can provide. We should appoint Supreme Court Justices educated from amongst a wider group of Americas Universities.

    Harvard –

    Chief Justice John Roberts
    Anthony Kennedy
    Antonin Scalia
    Stephen Breyer
    Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Harvard, Columbia)


    Samuel Alito – Yale JD 1975
    David Souter
    Clarence Thomas – Yale JD 1974
    Sonia Sotomayor – Yale JD 1979

    Northwestern Law School.

    Justice John Paul Stevens

    The Presidents we have elected for the last twenty years, have themselves been Harvard or Yale educated. This has the potential to create an even more closed minded interpretation of our laws.

    Yale – Bush Sr. – 4 years
    Yale Law – Clinton – 8 years
    Yale – Bush, Jr. – 8 Years
    Harvard Law – Obama – 4 – 8 years

    When we consider that our Nation has potentially twenty – eight years of Presidential influence from these two Universities, as Americans, we should look long and hard at the influence Yale and Harvard have exerted on our nation’s policies. Barack Obama promised America Change, but he has continued the same discriminatory policy by appointing a Yale graduate over many qualified candidates that graduated from other top Colleges and Universities in America.

  2. It’s tricky. We’re trying to talk the Kagan thing through from both sides here:


    I still say it’s presidential prerogative to pick whoever they want… Founders never expected public opinion to have any bearing on it. President picks ’em, Senate confirms ’em. If you want to have control over the future of the court, win elections

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