The Country Goes Right: Sandra Day Appears Left
Its funny how Sandra Day O'Connor was considered a conservative when she was selected by Ronald Reagan to serve on the Supreme Court in 1981. Here we are, 24 years later, and her resignation from the court exemplifies just how far to the Right this country has shifted. By today's standards, she is considered a moderate, typically casting the swing-vote.
Take the Yaser Hamdi case (in PDF). Yaser Hamdi was a United States citizen who was captured in 2001 by the US military as he allegedly fought for the Taliban in Afghanistan. After being captured, Hamdi was detained on a US military base, and was denied access to an attorney. The government labeled Hamdi an "enemy combatant" and therefore argued that Hamdi could be held in custody until the Afghan War ended, regardless of Hamdi's citizenship and regardless of Hamdi's right to argue against his classification as an "enemy combatant".
Hamdi brought suit against the government in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, challenging the validity of the government's classification and his detention. The case made its way to the Supreme Court where Sandra Day O'Connor penned the majority opinion.
In her opinion, she stated:
"It is during our most challenging and uncertain moments that our Nations's commitment to due process is most severely tested, and it is in those times that we must preserve our commitment at home to the principles for which we fight abroad."
She also stated: "We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens." (By today's standard, such a position can be termed as "liberal" or "progressive", can it not?)
Inevitably, Justices Kennedy, Breyer, Souter, Ginsburg, and even Chief Justice Rehnquist(!!) held that Hamdi's detention was unconstitutional. Many legal scholars claimed this decision to be the most important civil rights decision in the past 50 years!
Looking back on O'Connor's tenure, one could say that the Honorable Judge aged like fine wine, moving toward the left. But I disagree with that view. I believe the country has moved so far to the right that it only appears, from our new perspective, that O'Connor has moved left toward center. The truth is, the party of Ronald Reagan has gone so far to the right, that they have casted judges like O'Connor, and even Rehnquist, into moderate light.
And yet, when you listen to today's "average" Conservative speak.....