Over the course of the last year, President Obama and Mitt Romney have battled over every issue under the umbrella of American politics. They turned attention to the economy, foreign affairs and human rights. Basically, anything that could show some sort of short-term impact that could play up to an electorate that wants to see immediate results.
Out of all of these important issues, one thing that was talked about very little during the campaign and has arguably the largest long-term consequence. Over the course of the next four years, there will be two Supreme Court Justice appointments.
There are more than a few misconceptions regarding the office of the President of the United States. Citizens tend to believe that the office controls the rest of the government around it. While the exact balance of power between the executive and legislative branches tips back and forth depending on recent legislation of the time, the judicial branch is a mainstay in the government’s system that rarely waivers.
See, while a President stays in office for either four or eight years, any court appointments he makes during his tenure have a ripple effect far beyond his immediate successors. These justices are there for the duration of their careers and as such become pillars of the judicial system for better or for worse.
The Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission case is a perfect example of the effects that appointments have. In 2009, the Supreme Court upheld the decision that corporations and unions have the same political speech rights as an individual under the first amendment, striking down a law banning the practice. It was upheld 5-4, along ideological lines of conservative and liberal. The reason it passed, during the first year of President Obama’s first term, was because of the appointees President Bush chose during his eight years in office. Even though he was no longer around, his choices had ramifications that have lasted beyond his presidency to this day.
People need to see beyond the instant statistics. They need to look beyond the latest job report or the latest economic numbers that fluctuate on a monthly basis. They need to look at the difference that Presidential decisions make over the long haul and that can truly effect the direction the country takes.
What we saw last night was a country that chose to stick with a President for that long haul, a country that saw progress being made and a country that realized there are some things that extend beyond a simple four years of 100 percent success or failure. Sure, plenty of people thought maybe giving Governor Romney a shot at the economy could make a difference, but the reality is that it takes longer than four years to solve a financial mess completely and taking that risk of switching directions means the possibility of putting two justices in the court who could literally throw out decades of progressive legislation. This can include things such as marriage equality and women’s rights.
During the President’s second term, he will need to look at issues including immigration, climate change and economic regulation. These are issues that can come down to the courts, much like the health care law did recently. It is important, not only through a liberal perspective, but through the perspective of moderate America. A leader needs to be in place that will not bend to a crazy extreme, but rather understand that he needs to represent the country as a whole.
President Obama has proven that he is willing to do that through his past Supreme Court Appointments. The first justice he appointed was Sonia Sotomayor and the second was Elena Kagan. In his appointments, the President made it clear that he was appointing judges who were had a record of upholding the constitution and also using their hearts on tough decisions to defend people who otherwise would not be defended. More than conservative or liberal leaning, Obama shows that he is willing to appoint people who will rule in the best interest of the entire American public. That is why last night’s re-election means so much. The people elected a man who has a track record of putting the country before partisan politics in such an important situation, while it would have be doubtful at best that his challenger would have done the same.
Whatever the outcome is after the next four years of a Barack Obama presidency, it is a good sign that there is someone in the office who has a clear idea of the importance of long-term decisions and doesn’t bend to short-term solutions for political points.