Pete Buttigieg said he wants more Supreme Court justices like Anthony Kennedy in an interview with Cosmopolitan, and now progressives are raising alarms about what that means. The idea also drew response from fellow presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. with Bernie Sanders responding that his preference would be for more justices like Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Sonia Sotomayor.
In the interview, Buttigieg starts by noting how precarious human rights are in this country. “As you know, it’s especially important for LGBTQ rights, but it’s important for access to abortion and many other issues too,” he said. “When I look at the Supreme Court, I can’t help but remember that my marriage only exists by the grace of a single vote in that body.”
But he goes on that he wants to stop the court from becoming too political. “Right now, every time there’s a vacancy, there’s this apocalyptic ideological battle and it hurts the court and it hurts the country,” he said.
Among Buttigieg’s ideas are possibly increasing the number of judges, and requiring that some of them are approved unanimously by the others. He noted that the country might try rotating judges in and out over time.
Ultimately, he said, “the first step that I’ll do is to appoint a commission with this mission: Make the Supreme Court less political.”
But he also raised an example that has progressives nervous. “the idea here is you get more justices who think for themselves,” he said. “Justices like Justice Kennedy or Justice Souter.”
That’s “utterly disqualifying,” tweeted Rolling Stone senior writer Jamil Smith.
Kennedy is “a guy who was appointed by Reagan, consistently worked to gut workers' rights & voting rights, and resigned to allow Donald Trump to appoint Kavanaugh,” The Nation’s Jeet Heer tweeted.
Kennedy “voted to uphold Trump's Muslim ban, voted for the Janus decision gutting labor unions, and voted to uphold voter suppression in Husted,” ACLU researcher Brian Tashman added.
But others took a more nuanced stance. “Kennedy was a Republican nominee who legalized gay sex, gay marriage, saved Roe v Wade repeatedly,” comedian and sage Guy Branum tweeted. “He was not a movie good guy, he was not a movie bad guy, but he also wasn’t an intractable partisan. If want progressive policies, elect more dems.”
Bernie Sanders took the opportunity to contrast his style with that of Buttigieg’s. “Interesting, I’d like more justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor,” Sanders wrote.
Ginsberg has a long history of standing up for LGBTQ+ equality. She joined in decisions — all written by Kennedy — that legalized marriage equality, ended the criminalization of homosexuality, and overturned discriminatory laws in Colorado. She also opposed the Boy Scouts’ exclusion of gay members.
Sotomayor’s time on the bench has been much shorter, but she’s also taken a stand for civil rights, ruling in favor of marriage equality and overturning the Defense of Marriage Act.