Nevada's Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, is being vetted by the White House as a potential nominee to be a Supreme Court Justice.
Sandoval served as Nevada’s Attorney General in the early 2000s and later as a federal judge, only relinquishing his position when he became governor in 2011. He won the Senate confirmation for his position as a federal judge unanimously in 2005.
Sandoval is a Republican governor, but a centrist. According to the Washington Post, “[he] is aligned with Democrats on some key issues, including abortion rights and the environment. As governor, he has moved to implement the Affordable Care Act, and has said he considers same-sex marriage to be a settled issue.”
Somewhat presciently, Politico actually did a feature on Sandoval on Tuesday, stating that, “He is in the unenviable position of being seen as an ideological apostate who simultaneously boasts approval ratings in the high-to-mid 60s.”
In addition to Sandoval’s (relatively) progressive views on abortion, healthcare, climate change, education, and same-sex marriage, he has “taken lesser known actions on police body cameras, driver’s licenses for undocumented aliens and multiple moves to squelch Republican-led tort reform.”
Unlike his ideologically obstinate colleagues, Sandoval appears to take governance quite seriously—he even raised taxes in Nevada after initially attempting to curtail them and realizing that that strategy did not do well for the state.
On one hand, nominating Sandoval would be a clever political move on President Obama’s part. As the Washington Post notes, “Republican senators said the nomination of the Republican governor would put GOP senators in a tough spot politically.” If they obstructed a hearing for Sandoval, despite the fact that he is a member of their own party, it would put them in a horrible light within the American public (and many Republican senators are facing tough reelections).
Sandoval is one of the best nominees Obama could put forth in terms of appeasing Republicans in the Senate while still being someone who is ideologically flexible and moderate.
However, if Obama did nominate Sandoval, he would once again be bowing his head to the angry, extreme Republican voices that continue to oppose any action he takes.
This appointment is one of the most pivotal in the Supreme Court’s history. The Court is currently divided in half ideologically—Justice Kennedy occasionally acts as a swing vote but is still conservative—and having a Democratic president in charge of nominating a justice that could give the Court a liberal majority is a rare opportunity.
We are facing some dire decisions. Fundamental human rights court cases such as Roe v. Wade are in jeopardy of being overturned; we cannot take risks when it comes to the progress we’ve made in terms of women’s health, LGBTQ rights, and climate change, among other issues.
Other decisions, such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, have corrupted the campaign finance system and with a moderate Republican nominee such as Sandoval, who could certainly be friendly to corporate interests, it may be impossible to recalibrate our system so that it no longer legalizes crony capitalism.
Sandoval is certainly not the worst Obama could do. But this is a moment to stand strong, principled, and progressive, rather than give in to the far right, which will never be appeased no matter what action Obama takes.
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