Could RBG Be Confirmed Today?

September 27th, 2014

Of late, the Notorious RBG has repeated over and over again that she should not retire, as the President would not be able to appoint someone better (read liberal) than her. As I’ve explained several times, I’m sure most liberals would prefer someone more moderate than she is, but 30 years younger. Also, I’m not sure why she thinks the gridlock in the Senate will get any better in the future. More likely than not, it will become even *harder* to nominate someone further from the ideological center. Anyway, I digress.

Is it in fact true that someone like RBG could not be confirmed today? At 538, Harry Enten analyzes a variable known as the “Segal-Cover ideological score” that breaks down how far from the ideological center a Supreme Court nominee is. And, what you’ll find, is that RBG was deemed *less* liberal than Sotomayor or Kagan.

[Ginsburg] had a Segal-Cover ideological score, a metric that uses newspaper editorials to rate justices on a liberal-conservative scale, of 0.68 (1.0 being the most liberal).

That’s less liberal than both of Obama’s appointees, Justices Elena Kagan (0.73) and Sonia Sotomayor (0.78), when they were nominated. It’s more moderate than liberal lions such as William J. Brennan or Thurgood Marshall, and it’s more moderate than any Republican nominated since Robert Bork in the late 1980s, with the exception of Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Now, perhaps it could be that RBG’s experience on abortion cases would make her unconfirmable, in contrast to Sonia Sotomayor who had been a judge for 20 years, or Elena Kagan who assiduously avoided taking any controversial positions (other than the Solomon Amendments). It’s harder to nail down ideology when it is not tethered to specific acts.

Enten concludes that with this model, and RBG-like nominee would get about 80 votes, even if the GOP controls the Senate. Or “it’s possible that, with a majority, Republicans will try to run out the clock on Obama.”