What Nov. 6 means for the Supreme Court

If Romney wins, we can expect a frighteningly conservative high court. A victory for Obama could mean a liberal majority for the first time since 1969.

The future of the Supreme Court is the forgotten issue in this year's presidential election. This is surprising and disturbing because a president's picks for the federal judiciary are one of the most long-lasting legacies of any presidency. There is a sharp contrast between the types of individuals that Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would place on the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts, yet neither is saying much about it.

Recent history powerfully shows the importance of presidential elections to Supreme Court decision-making. Imagine that Al Gore or John Kerry had been elected president and one of them, rather than George W. Bush, had been able to replace William Rehnquist and Sandra Day O'Connor in 2005. The high court likely would not have found a right for corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money in elections in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission (2010), or a right of individuals to own and possess guns in District of Columbia vs. Heller (2008), or upheld the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act in Gonzales vs. Carhart (2007).

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