Democrats use Kagan to sign up voters, raise funds
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Democratic Party put Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan front and center Thursday on an e-mail appeal to raise funds and sign up supporters for President Barack Obama’s agenda.
“Kagan for Justice,” reads a bumper sticker-style headline on a website where supporters are asked to sign their names and give their e-mail addresses, then taken to a site where they are asked to donate money to the Democratic National Committee.
Also topping the site is a picture of a smiling Kagan, who just concluded three days of hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee at which she pledged repeatedly to cast aside any political allegiances if confirmed, and decide cases solely on the basis of the Constitution and the law.
The appeal comes from Donna Brazile, one of Democrats’ top voter registration officials.
“The Democratic Party is pushing back to ensure that this incredible woman gets a fair hearing, but we must also show that public support for Kagan is overwhelming,” Brazile writes.
The message came as the Judiciary panel concluded nearly a week of hearings on Kagan, who’s on track for confirmation after a smooth performance before senators. A vote by the committee is expected within weeks to send Kagan’s nomination to the full Senate, where Democrats have more than enough votes to confirm her.
Still, conservative opponents are stepping up their efforts to get senators to vote “no.” The National Rifle Association said Kagan “has repeatedly demonstrated a clear hostility to the fundamental, individual right to keep and bear arms guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.” In a letter to senators Thursday, the group’s leaders said Kagan’s confirmation vote would be considered in NRA’s candidate evaluations.
Republicans argue that Kagan would have trouble putting aside her political leanings and ruling in an impartial way.
The GOP called several military witnesses Thursday who said Kagan’s decision as dean of Harvard Law School to bar Pentagon recruiters from the campus career services office over the ban on openly gay soldiers made her unfit to be a justice.
Retired Army Capt. Flagg Youngblood compared her treatment of recruiters to racial segregation and said it reflected “a condescension towards American rule of law.” A vote for Kagan, Youngblood said, was “a vote to harm the interests of our military.”
Kagan defended her actions during this week’s hearings, saying she had tried to comply with Harvard’s anti-discrimination policy without jeopardizing the school’s eligibility for federal funds under a law that required equal access for military recruiters. Under her arrangement, recruiters had to work through a student-run veterans’ organization.
Democrats called Lilly Ledbetter – the central figure in a 2007 Supreme Court decision saying discriminatory pay actions by companies had to be addressed immediately, or not at all – to urge support for Kagan. Ledbetter said the court needs more liberal justices like Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and retiring Justice John Paul Stevens.
“My case shows that who gets appointed to the Supreme Court really makes a difference. If one more person like Justice Ginsburg or Justice Stevens were on the court – one more person who understands what it’s like for ordinary people living in the real world – then my case would have turned out differently,” Ledbetter said.
Kagan’s allies also invited conservative fans of Obama’s nominee to vouch for her appeal to people across the ideological spectrum.
Harvard Law School Professor Jack Goldsmith, a Justice Department official under President George W. Bush, said Kagan would be a “truly outstanding Supreme Court justice” and that she had a “commitment to treating everyone and all ideas on the merits, rather than through an ideological lens.”
Conservative activists, however, argued that Kagan was too driven by liberal views.
“We believe that Ms. Kagan will be an agenda-driven justice on the court and she will oppose even the most widely accepted protections for unborn human life,” said Charmaine Yoest of the anti-abortion group Americans United for Life.
Tony Perkins of the conservative Family Research Council said Kagan’s opposition to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation suggests that she has a “far-left agenda” that includes invalidating state laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
“We do not need a justice on the Supreme Court who sees it as her life mission to write the homosexual version of Roe v. Wade,” Perkins said, referring to the 1973 ruling that established abortion rights.
Kagan has said she doesn’t believe there’s a constitutional right to gay marriage, but she declined during this week’s testimony to give her views on the constitutional validity of a federal law defining marriage as between one man and one woman – a question that could soon be before the court.