Was Reagan's Nomination Of Sandra Day O'Connor A Slap In The Face To Conservatives?

In hindsight, this seems an easy call - obviously yes. O'Connor was a deciding vote in upholding a woman's right to choose and affirmative action. Steve Benen digs up a story from 1981 where the arch social conservative Richard Viguerie says of the O'Connor nomination:

"The White House slapped us in the face," says Richard A. Viguerie, the conservative direct-mail expert. "The White House is saying you don't have a constituency we're concerned about. We don't care about you.

I'd say, at the time, Viguerie and people like him were in fact shunted aside because Reagan wanted to nominate the first woman to the Supreme Court. I don't think Benen is disputing that. I do think Benen is trying to discredit progressive dissatisfaction with President Obama. Indeed, he says the moral of the story is "that perceptions can change over time." That is silly. Some folks seem incapable of getting out of focusing on the pol, not the issue. Vigeurie was commenting on one event - the nomination of O'Connor. I am sure if he wanted to, Benen could find many instances of Viguerie praising Reagan at the same time (tax cuts anyone?). It is not all of one thing or another. Here's the real moral of the story in my opinion - who did Reagan nominate for the Supreme Court after O'Connor? Antonin Scalia. For those who decry pressure on their hero pols, the lessons of Richard Viguerie's complaints about Reagan's nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor are that they worked. Viguerie got what he wanted the next time.

Richard Viguerie understood what too many do not want to these days - pols are pols and do what they do. Your loyalty should lie with the issues you care about, not the pols.

Speaking for me only

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    For example (none / 0) (#1)
    by andgarden on Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 08:45:35 AM EST
    I think that the White House is beginning to take the "weak Obama" story seriously (though that cuts into support with the base as well as with everyone else). He apparently is doing something I was wishing he would do last night when I read Paul Krugman's latest column, but didn't remotely expect:

    a White House aide says that President Barack Obama will veto any bill limiting the EPA's ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

    Is there a chance a bill like that would come (none / 0) (#2)
    by ruffian on Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 08:52:08 AM EST
    on its own, now that comprehensive climate change legislation is tabled for the year? I applaud it FWIW...just not sure how much that is.

    Yes there is (none / 0) (#3)
    by andgarden on Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 09:00:21 AM EST
    IIRC, such a bill almost got a vote in the Senate (by way of amendment).

    OK, thanks (none / 0) (#4)
    by ruffian on Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 09:20:04 AM EST
    In that case, good on the WH. Gotta get climate change  and other environmental rules in place in any way possible - much like the bush admin took any means possible to destroy them.

    Looking at this from another angle, (none / 0) (#5)
    by scribe on Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 09:48:47 AM EST
    suppose for a second that Reagan's first S.Ct. nominee had been Justice Phyllis Schlafly or some other anti-abortion hardliner.  The activists - so chapped (according to this story) by the slap in the face - would have gotten what they wanted, and likely packed up and gone home.

    Instead the Republicans have, by dangling one after another sorta-anti-abortion nominee after another over the last 30 years, managed to build those activists into the base of their party (though some might argue even those activists are out of touch - to the left - of today's true Tea Party base).  

    Said another way, hanging a carrot in front of a horse works only so long as the horse can't get the carrot but it continues to dangle.  Once the horse gets and eats the carrot, that carrot no longer works and the driver has to find a new one lest the lazy horse take a break.  That's how all pols treat their base.  Keeping an issue alive by not resolving it is often more politically beneficial, in terms of activist involvement and fervor, than actually resolvng it.

    Me, I still think Ronnie was guided by his PR and Hollywood friends and nominated O'Connor on July 7, 1981, about 6 weeks before this really bad movie came out (August 21, 1981).  Not that the Reagan White House wouldn't know what was in production in Hollywood or anything.  But, also, it bears remembering Reagan had promised in his campaign to nominate the first woman to the S.Ct.

    Of course, even fulfilled campaign promises can have deeply ironic twists to the politicians' bases who watch for fulfillment of such promises.

    Also of course, though, is the ability (and some might say duty) of activists to make the pols, who are playing them by dangling the carrot just out of reach, come through.  The best way for a base to force the pols' hands and give them what they have been fighting for is to do what many of the Dem activists have been doing or threatening to do to Obama:  Sit on their hands and do nothing.

    Counteracting that threat to do nothing by threatening that the Republicans will take over and close the door to progressive change (the theme of Pelosi's speech to NN10 this past weekend) is just like trying to coax the balky horse without actually giving it anything.  This "door to progressive change" is just like when Bush was telling us about time horizons for leaving Iraq:  as you approach a horizon it keeps receding and you never reach it.  Bush had no intention of leaving Iraq;  Pelosi and Obama have no intention of effecting real progressive change and won't unless forced to.  And sitting down and refusing to participate for them is the way to force them.

    G.W. Bush's popularity is gaining as (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 12:14:43 PM EST
    Obama's decreases LAT re poll

    I've said this before (none / 0) (#9)
    by jbindc on Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 01:22:51 PM EST
    I don't see Roe getting overturned anytime soon.  One mention of it in a campaign flyer nets lots of cash.  On the other hand, Democrats have milked the threat of overturing Roe to scare people into voting for them and also donating money  It's a cash cow issue, that unfortunately, involves tje most personal decisions.

    shrewd move by Reagan (none / 0) (#7)
    by Yes2Truth on Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 12:41:03 PM EST

    Softened Reagan's image with women and Ms. O'Connor
    delivered when it came to the interests of the PTB.

    Mixed review of Day O'Connor (none / 0) (#8)
    by Cream City on Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 12:59:12 PM EST
    for me.  Made history along the way, too, and then her major historic accomplishment made way for Bader Ginsburg and more.  And Day O'Connor's swing vote was crucial for reproductive rights, yes.

    But it's hard to forget or forgive what her swing vote meant in 2000. . . .  I bet Reagan would have chuckled at that one if compos mentis to know of it.