Packing the Courts with Young Judges

The Senate yesterday confirmed a 37-year-old to a lifetime Court of Appeals seat.

So this happened yesterday:

The Senate voted Tuesday to confirm Allison Jones Rushing, 37, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, making her the youngest federal judge in the country.

The Senate voted 53-44 to put Rushing into the lifetime court seat. Every Republican present voted for her. Every Democrat present opposed her.

Democrats raised a number of concerns with Rushing, who is a partner at the D.C.-based law firm Williams & Connolly. She worked for Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian organization that has been classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. She has argued that there were “moral and practical” reasons for banning same-sex marriage. And some lawmakers said she simply lacks the experience or legal ability to be a federal judge.

“She has practiced law for nine years. How many cases has she tried to verdict or judgment? Four. Has she been the lead attorney on any of those cases? No,” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said on the Senate floor. “That is the most scant, weakest legal resume imaginable for someone who’s seeking a lifetime appointment to the second-highest court of the land.”

Like most of President Donald Trump’s court picks, Rushing is also a member of the conservative Federalist Society, which has been driving Trump’s judicial selection process and funneling anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ nominees to the White House.

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who helped usher Rushing through the Senate confirmation process, defended her credentials.

“She is really considered one of the fast-rising stars in the legal profession,” he said. “She is clearly qualified to do this job.”

The Senate is voting on two more circuit court nominees this week, both of whom, like Rushing, are young, ideological and Federalist Society members.

On paper, at least, Rushing is poorly qualified for the Federal judiciary—let alone for an appellate judgeship. Still, as I noted on Twitter, such appointments are a “natural consequence of making the judiciary rather than the elected branches the place where our most important domestic policies are decided: we’re going to get ever younger, less-qualified, and more ideological judges.”

I received some pushback from NYkrinDC, who wondered, “Is that an actual trend for both parties, or something that Trump and the GOP are trying to do now. Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, he was hardly an ideologue, in fact, many on the far left felt he was too centrist.”

But Garland was a decided outlier. Indeed, when Obama first announced the choice, I was struck by how old he was. At 63, he was considerably older than most recent Supreme Court nominees. Additionally, Garland was widely considered a “moderate”—one praised on the record by many Republican Senators—and had impeccable credentials as a prosecutor and judge.  But, as Doug Mataconis noted at the time, that was likely the point:

It’s arguably the case that the President has selected Judge Garland as part of an effort to back the GOP into a corner on its “No Hearings, No Votes” position and put the maximum amount of political pressure on them. In addition to the fact that several sitting Senators have said in the past that Garland would be a good Supreme Court nominee, the Administration can point to the fact that the Senate has previously considered Garland for a judicial position and that he was overwhelmingly approved by a Republican-controlled Senate. Indeed, one can make the case that if it were not for the fiscal issues that surrounded his appointment that had nothing to do with his qualifications he probably would have been confirmed unanimously.

Obviously, Obama underestimated the shamelessness of Mitch McConnell and company in playing hardball. They withstood the public pressure to give Garland a vote, Donald Trump surprised everyone by winning the election, and the seat vacated by Antonin Scalia’s death was instead filled by conservative Neil Gorsuch.

Still, there has been a trend in recent decades toward younger justices. As David Ingold wrote for Bloomberg when Gorsuch was appointed,

Since World War II, the average age when a judge leaves the court, either through retirement or death, has been increasing. With two current justices more than 80 years old and a third joining them next year, the projected age when a justice will leave the Supreme Court is now about 83—that’s a 10-year increase from the 1950s.

At the same time, modern justices are joining the court at a younger age than in decades past. In 1900, justices tended to be in their late 50s when they joined the court.Today, the average age is about five years younger, and President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch, currently 49 years old, only furthers that trend.

This is part of the calculation for modern presidents when choosing whom to nominate—a younger justice who can spend more time on the court maximizes a president’s impact. The justices appointed by Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush—Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito and John Roberts—were all 55 or younger when they joined the court. And if they serve into their early 80s, Obama and Bush could see their influence on the court for the better part of 30 years.

The accompanying graphic is instructive:

Eric Ostermeier, writing almost a decade ago, argued that this is something of a myth:

The conventional wisdom is that as the nomination and appointment process of Supreme Court justices has become more and more political (along with the decision-making of the Court itself), the more likely it is that Presidents will nominate men and women to the bench that are youthful. Younger, and thus, more likely than not, longer-serving justices, maximize the opportunities for the president to have a greater legacy in shaping the judicial (and political) philosophy of the Court.

But are Supreme Court Nominees getting younger?

Not exactly.

A Smart Politics analysis of the 110 Supreme Court Justices (and 112 confirmations) in U.S. history finds Sotomayor to actually be slightly older (54.9 years) than the average age of all justices, past and present, at the time of their respective confirmation (52.8 years).

Moreover, the average age of successful nominees has actually been getting older in recent decades.

· In the 1980s, the average age for the three justices confirmed (Sandra Day O’Connor, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy) was 50.7 years.

· That number increased to 52.3 years in the 1990s, when four justices were confirmed (Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Clarence Thomas, David Souter).

· The average age at the time of confirmation for Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito was 52.5 years. If Sotomayor, who turns 55 this month, is confirmed, that would raise the average age to confirmed nominees in the 2000s to 53.3 years.

Taking a longer view reveals justices confirmed today to be virtually the same age as those confirmed in the early and mid 1900s. The average age of the 45 Supreme Court justices who took the bench from Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (in 1902) through John Stevens (in 1975) was 54.9 years old – the precise age of Sotomayor.

But, not only have subsequent appointees been younger, looking at the entire history of the Court skews the perception given how much longer people now live. Indeed, Ostermeier acknowledges as much:

Still, since the 1900s, the three decades with the youngest justices at the time of confirmation are the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s. In fact, one has to go back to the 1860s (50.4 years) to find a decade with a younger crop of nominees.

And while the six decades with the lowest average age of Supreme Court justices at the onset of their service all took place between the 1780s and the 1860s, it is also true that the life expectancy was about half then as it is today – virtually necessitating the nomination of younger justices to the Court. (According to the Bureau of the Census, the average life expectancy at birth for a white male in 1850 was 38.3 years, compared to over 75 years today).

Still, NYkrinDC seems to have a point vis-a-vis Republicans being more likely to point younger justices than Democrats.  A February 2012 Alliance for Justice report on overall judicial appointments (that is, including the far more numerous seats on the District and Circuit courts, not just SCOTUS) found that:

The average age of President Obama’s appointees — 52.0 years old — is considerably higher than the average age of any of the last three Republican presidents’ confirmed judges. The age discrepancy is particularly glaring for circuit court appointees, who have been, on average, 4-6 years older than Republican presidents’ appointees. Republican presidents have shown no hesitancy in nominating people under 50 to circuit court seats, and in fact placed a premium on selecting young nominees.

If you examine the age distribution of Obama’s nominees, it is apparent that they skew marginally toward the upper 50s, raising his average above his predecessors.

That’s particularly interesting when one considers Obama enjoyed a majority in the Senate during the period in question. The 111th Congress (2009-2011) fluctuated between 58 and 56 Democratic Senators and the  112th (2011-2013) had 51 Democrats plus 2 nominal Independents who caucused with the Democrats. I don’t have data for appointees during Obama’s second term, the second half of which featured a Republican majority in the Senate.

Looking only at the current membership on the Supreme Court, Republican Presidents seem to have valued youth slightly more than Democrats. The age at the time of confirmation, from youngest to oldest:

Thomas 43 ( Bush41, R)
Gorsuch 49 (Trump, R)
Kagan 50, 4 mos (Obama, D)
Roberts 50, 9 mos (Bush43, R)
Kavanaugh 53 (Trump, R)
Sotomayor 55, 1 mo (Obama, D)
Alito 55 yrs, 9 mos (Bush43, R)
Breyer 56 (Clinton, D)
Ginsburg 60 (Clinton, D)

The two youngest appointees were Republican and the two oldest were Democrats. Even more oddly, the two oldest were appointed by Bill Clinton early in his first term when he had a strong Democratic majority in the Senate and were both confirmed with overwhelming bipartisan votes. Had Merrick Garland been confirmed, the three oldest Justices at the time of confirmation would all have been Democrats—two of them over 60.

UPDATE: Here’s a kicker, from the HuffPo piece quoted at the beginning of the post:

Trump is dramatically reshaping the nation’s federal courts. With Rushing’s confirmation, he has now gotten 32 circuit judges, 53 district judges and two Supreme Court justices confirmed. That’s so many circuit judges ― more than any other president confirmed by this point in his first term ― that 1 in 6 seats on U.S. circuit courts is now filled by a judge nominated by Trump.

Halfway through his first term, that’s remarkable, indeed. Once again, McConnell’s brazen denial of Obama’s ability to place judges on the federal bench has paid huge dividends.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Law and the Courts
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    I’m almost 53 years old. I have to come to grips with the fact unqualified ideologues like Rushing will be fucking America up for the rest of my natural life.

    This is not how I wanted to start Wednesday.

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  2. Picking young judges for high court appointments isn’t unprecedented.

    Chief Justice John Marshall, for example, was just 45 when he was selected for the Supreme Court in 1801, although this was admittedly at a time when life expectancy was much shorter. Marshall went on to serve on the Court for 34 years

    Justice Joseph Story was nominated for SCOTUS in 1812 when he was just 32. He went on to serve for the next 33 years.

    And Elena Kagan was nominated for the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit in 1999 when she was 39. Her nomination was not acted on by the end of President Clinton’s term, though, so it lapsed.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I’m really interested in trends more than outliers. Rushing certainly looks like an unqualified hack but I could envision a 37-year-old who’s highly qualified for an appellate judgeship.

  4. @James Joyner:

    I tend to agree on the experience/qualifications issue as it applies to Rushing. If she were being appointed to a District Court seat I would be okay with it, I guess, but this is a seat on the Court of Appeals, which strikes me as a different animal.

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: My problem with Rushing is that I don’t think she has sufficient experience for the bench. Duke Law is impressive enough as a credential and she followed that with two circuit clerkships. Great start. If she had followed that with time as a US Attorney, DOJ official, Congressional staffer, law professor, or the like I’d say she was bench-worthy. But she instead chose to become a partisan hack. (She did intersperse that with a Supreme Court clerkship with Justice Thomas.)

  6. @James Joyner:

    Fair enough, I guess I’m more willing to cut some slack at the District Court level since being a trial court Judge is kind of a “learn on the job” position to begin with.

    Personally I’m more bothered by Rushing’s connections with a group like ADF which has a clear bias on issues such as LGBT rights. I will be interested to see if she recuses herself in cases where ADF is a party or represents one of the parties. Arguably, she should.

  7. Kit says:

    Just what in the anti-intellectualism of the Republican Party could possibly argue for any value in age and experience? Start telling people that their gut reactions as real Americans and real Christians are not enough to judge any and all situations, and you find yourself on a slippery slope that leads straight to respecting education and listening to experts.

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  8. Kathy says:

    Expect someday a nominee who’s just been accepted to law school, as the job on the bench will be a great help in their studies.

  9. Modulo Myself says:

    The problem isn’t youth–it’s the fact that conservative politics is an outlier for younger people, especially for intellectuals. There is nobody–and I mean nobody–who is Rushing’s age outside of the conservative machine who cares about originalism. It is simply not a relevant ideology for 2019. Young people who are conservative like Joe Rogan or MMA or all-meat diets. They also like the environment and don’t understand orthodox Christianity. And if they’re halfway intelligent, they are laughing their asses at some poncy Christian nutjob talking about the Federalist Papers might be useful in understanding how the government in regulating carbon emissions. The entire conservative machine is based on seventy-year olds paying to pseudo-respect to dead people in order to live out their greedy, mediocre fantasies. I predict in 15 years the disconnect will be so huge between the American judicial system and reality that they will reorganize the courts.

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  10. JohnMcC says:

    I’d sure appreciate some attention on the Federalist Society. How much diversity within their ranks? Who are the donors? What is the history of the organization? Questions like that seem hard to answer using the Google due to the propaganda from friends and enemies when a non-lawyer like me.

    Regarding Ms Rushing, say it yet once again: We are SOOOOOO screwed!

  11. Teve says:

    On policy issues, the majority opinion in this country is center-left, and has been for some time. But it’s conceivable that for decades a center-right court could block basically the entire policy agenda. For that and other reasons, I’m in favor of as much court-packing as the Dems want to do when they get back in power.

    There are historical parallels here to the New Deal.

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  12. SKI says:

    McConnell’s brazen denial of Obama’s ability to place judges on the federal bench has paid huge dividends.

    At some point, as a country, we have to come to grips with the reality that the current GOP has placed party over country, time and time again.

  13. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    At some point, as a country, we have to come to grips with the reality that the current GOP has placed party over country, time and time again.

    On this particular score, I think Republicans legitimately believe party and country are the same. That is, they view judicial appointments as the first line of preserving their vision of the country and will therefore do just about anything to further that end. It’s why so many were able to vote for Trump, for example—and the one way he’s been most like a normal Republican President.

    I’m an extreme outlier in defending process over outcomes because I think the institution is ultimately more important than particular short-term policy wins. But almost nobody in power thinks that way.

  14. Kathy says:

    The political situation today reminds me of an early 90 cartoon, I think by Toles, which shows a deranged-looking fellow pointing at the USSR yelling “Evil empire! Evil empire!” while a benevolent Uncle Sam looks on with a smile.

    In the middle panel the USSR disappears.

    In the bottom panel, the deranged-looking fellow points at Uncle Sam and begins to yell, “Evil empire! Evil empire!”

    The spirit of that fellow now runs the government and is appointing judges.

    Which reminds me of another joke:

    Q: What’s the right-wing definition of a patriot?
    A: A person who shows their love of their country by hating 65% of the people living in it.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @JohnMcC:

    I’d sure appreciate some attention on the Federalist Society. How much diversity within their ranks? Who are the donors? What is the history of the organization? Questions like that seem hard to answer using the Google due to the propaganda from friends and enemies when a non-lawyer like me.

    Doug and I have both written about this:

    Is the Federalist Society Nefarious?

    Doug’s comment on that post

    The Conservative Legal Machine

    Some commenters, notably HarvardLaw92, vehemently disagree with us.

  16. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    On this particular score, I think Republicans legitimately believe party and country are the same. That is, they view judicial appointments as the first line of preserving their vision of the country and will therefore do just about anything to further that end. It’s why so many were able to vote for Trump, for example—and the one way he’s been most like a normal Republican President.

    I think you are using “legitimate” in a different way that I would. I think you mean “truly” or “honestly” (which I would question) but I vehemently disagree that their mindset is compatible with representative democracy or is in any way a “legitimate” approach in such a democracy.

    In essence, what I read you to be saying is that they really do hold the self-righteous belief that people who disagree with them aren’t just wrong but evil and therefore must be opposed with every tool at their disposal. I hope you can see that this line of thought leads to the destruction of democracy – and is doing so already.

    When they subvert the Constitution by denying the elected President the right to appoint judges or when they work to deny citizens the right to vote because they are not likely to vote for them, they are literally putting party over country in a way that risks the very foundation of a representative democracy. That can never be considered “legitimate”.

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  17. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    In essence, what I read you to be saying is that they really do hold the self-righteous belief that people who disagree with them aren’t just wrong but evil and therefore must be opposed with every tool at their disposal. I hope you can see that this line of thought leads to the destruction of democracy – and is doing so already.

    Pretty much and, yes, that’s been a core part of my arguments here for years now. Both Republicans and Democrats believe that they represent Good and the other side Evil but Republicans have been willing to use much more nefarious means to get their way. Going back to at least Watergate, too many Republicans have believed that they were essentially fighting a civil war against an enemy within. I see that attitude from time-to-time from prominent Democrats but nothing at all like it in terms of willingness to suppress the vote and the like.

    On the subject of the post, I do think Democrats were much earlier in seeing the power of the Court to help gain policy objectives they couldn’t through the electoral process. And I’ve long argued that this was destructive. But Republicans have gotten on board and have been much more cynical in their way of going about it.

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  18. Kit says:

    @James Joyner:

    Some commenters, notably HarvardLaw92, vehemently disagree with us.

    Oh! HarvardLaw92, why have you forsaken us?!

  19. SKI says:

    @James Joyner: Interesting comment from you, James, on that last linked thread:

    What the network accomplishes is building a strong bench for Republican presidents to choose from.

    Given the caliber of the recent appointees/nominations, they very definitely aren’t creating a “strong bench” – they are creating a bench of ideologues who are typically mediocre at best.

  20. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    Both Republicans and Democrats believe that they represent Good and the other side Evil

    Sure. Both sides. That is why Obama’s main plans on health care and immigration were taken directly from such arch-liberal sources like McCain, Romney and the Heritage Foundation. SMDH

    (yes, I know the rest of your post pretty clearly and appropriately notes that the GOP is the one doing the actually problematic things but I have hope that one day you will stop reflexively succumbing to High Broderism…)

  21. Kit says:

    @James Joyner:

    Both Republicans and Democrats believe that they represent Good and the other side Evil

    In a nutshell, Democrats believe that theirs is a country based upon an idea, and that that idea is enshrined in the Constitution and the laws of the land. Anyone who accepts this is welcome. Republicans believe that theirs is a country based on blood (just like pretty much all the other countries), with the special distinction that the USA is God’s chosen country (just like pretty much all foreigners believe about their own countries). Grasp that distinction, and you are holding the root of the matter.

  22. James Joyner says:

    @Kit:

    Oh! HarvardLaw92, why have you forsaken us?!

    I dunno. He hasn’t commented in almost five months. There was no indication that he was upset.

    @SKI:

    Given the caliber of the recent appointees/nominations, they very definitely aren’t creating a “strong bench” – they are creating a bench of ideologues who are typically mediocre at best.

    I don’t know enough about them down the line, since I typically only pay attention at the SCOTUS level. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were both extremely well qualified in terms of experience and intellect (even though I think Kavanaugh was disqualified on moral and temperamental grounds).

  23. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    I have hope that one day you will stop reflexively succumbing to High Broderism

    I legitimately worry that urban elites look down on Red America. It helps feed a vicious cycle. And likely helps out the likes of Trump.

  24. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t know enough about them down the line, since I typically only pay attention at the SCOTUS level. Gorsuch and Kavanaugh were both extremely well qualified in terms of experience and intellect (even though I think Kavanaugh was disqualified on moral and temperamental grounds).

    Nope. Gorsuch was but not Kavanaugh. He isn’t SCOTUS caliber.

  25. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    I legitimately worry that urban elites look down on Red America. It helps feed a vicious cycle. And likely helps out the likes of Trump.

    I do look down on certain parts of Red America. I’ve often said that I have more in common with an Architect from Madrid than a truck driver from El Reno, Oklahoma. In the last two years, I’ve spent a week in Madrid and a week in El Reno, OK (just about 40 mins drive west of Oklahoma City). I felt infinitely more at home, comfortable, and engaged in Madrid then I did in El Reno.

    I don’t understand (and never will) the gun fetish in Red America. And, make no mistake about it, it’s a fetish.

    I don’t understand (and never will) the hatred of homosexuals and Trans folk in Red America. I work and live among them with zero issues. None.

    I don’t understand (and never will) the racism, both blatant and institutionalized, in Red America.

    I dont understand (and never will), the dogged, radical religious beliefs that forces an 11 year old girl to have a child because she was raped and got pregnant by her rapist. Granted, this happened in Argentina, but there is no doubt pro-life zealots here would push this position if not for Roe.

    A study came out that showed that the more educated you became, the more liberal you also became.

    https://www.npr.org/2016/04/30/475794063/why-are-highly-educated-americans-getting-more-liberal

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/mar/22/democrats-more-educated-republicans-pew-research-c/

    Yes, Rural America chooses to continue doing things that have failed them repeatedly. Their version of the “country” is gone. It. Is. Gone.

    It’s not coming back. And they need some tough love to get them to realize it.

    The whole kerfuffle about judges is a joke to me, because until they start changing the laws, judges will still have to interpret the law. And MOST judges still try to judge the law on it’s merits. Sometimes they fail, but that’s been the case throughout history. I’m still pissed about Merrick Garland, but that’s more because of the brazen, yet legal, dismantling of norms, that it showed.

  26. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I legitimately worry that urban elites look down on Red America. It helps feed a vicious cycle. And likely helps out the likes of Trump.

    Again, I don’t think legitimately means what you keep thinking it means. I believe you honestly believe that but you are wrong. Can a erroneous view be legitimate?

    With respect to your worry, I would state that the reverse is far more likely to be true. Much of “Urban America” is composed of people who came from “Rural America” or at least regularly and routinely interact with such people. The converse isn’t true by and large. Familiarity may breed contempt but it also humanizes.

    Heck, your very phrasing “Urban Elites” is a meaningless label today. Who is that? Anyone who lives in a coastal metropolitan area? Is a bartender elite? A teacher? Anyone who went to college? Who are you talking about?

  27. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    Gorsuch was but not Kavanaugh. He isn’t SCOTUS caliber.

    There were many good reasons to oppose Kavanaugh. He’s something of a zealot (although statistically not that extreme in his rulings) and he’s clearly willing to lie under oath. But his resume is SCOTUS-worthy: the right clerkships, substantial DOJ experience, years of seasoning in an appellate court, etc. Plus, his opinions almost universally survived SCOTUS scrutiny and he was considered a “feeder judge” for SCOTUS.

    @SKI:

    “Urban Elites” is a meaningless label today. Who is that? Anyone who lives in a coastal metropolitan area? Is a bartender elite? A teacher? Anyone who went to college? Who are you talking about?

    Basically, college-educated folks with white collar jobs in major metropolitan areas, particularly along the coasts.

    Much of “Urban America” is composed of people who came from “Rural America” or at least regularly and routinely interact with such people. The converse isn’t true by and large. Familiarity may breed contempt but it also humanizes.

    I think this is true. Still, too many people who leave rural America for a better life in the big city wind up looking down on those they left behind.

  28. James Pearce says:

    Trump is dramatically reshaping the nation’s federal courts. With Rushing’s confirmation, he has now gotten 32 circuit judges, 53 district judges and two Supreme Court justices confirmed.

    Yeah, but we have bigger problems than the “young Trumpist judges setting the tone for the next few decades” thing.

    Aren’t plastic straws still available in restaurants?

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  29. gVOR08 says:

    From Jane Mayer, Dark Money, following David’s run for VP on the Libertarian ticket, a move taken only so they could donate personal money without scrutiny,

    The brothers realized that their brand of politics didn’t sell at the ballot box. Charles Koch became openly scornful of conventional politics. “It tends to be a nasty, corrupting business,” he told a reporter at the time. “I’m interested in advancing libertarian ideas.” According to Doherty’s history, the Kochs came to regard elected politicians as merely “actors playing out a script.” Instead of wasting more time, a confidant of the Kochs’ told Doherty, the brothers now wanted to “supply the themes and words for the scripts.” In order to alter the direction of America, they realized they would have to “influence the areas where policy ideas percolate from: academia and think tanks.”

    @JohnMcC: It’s mostly dark money, so who knows what they’re doing now, but the Kochs, with others, funded the birthing of the Federalist Society and I can’t imagine they aren’t still backing it. Packing the courts is another anti-democratic way they can force their “libertarian” ideas on the country.

  30. Teve says:

    4 out of 5 Americans live in urban areas. Most Americans live on the coasts.

    The bartender in L.A. and the mortgage broker in Jacksonville and the wine store supplier in NYC aren’t the oddballs, they’re the typical Americans. The welder in Opelika Alabama and the snow plow driver in Owingsville Kentucky are the oddballs.

    The prejudice that uneducated rural whites are the Real Merkins is racism that Trump feeds on.

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  31. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    But his resume is SCOTUS-worthy: the right clerkships, substantial DOJ experience, years of seasoning in an appellate court, etc. Plus, his opinions almost universally survived SCOTUS scrutiny and he was considered a “feeder judge” for SCOTUS.

    People who actually interacted with him inside the upper echelon were pretty clear he was second rate. While he isn’t the only one I heard it from I think HarvardLaw92 spelled it out on this site. He was smart but not brilliant.

    Basically, college-educated folks with white collar jobs in major metropolitan areas, particularly along the coasts.

    That grouping is so large and diverse as to be meaningless. I live in the Annapolis area – clearly coastal with a really high percentage of white collar residents. Yet, we have lots of hunters, lots of church goers, lots of military. By your definition, we are the urban elites – yet Clinton won the county by only about 1500 votes…

    Last night AOC was called an “elite” by a guest on Tucker Carlson. By your definition she is but wasn’t 6 months ago when she was tending bar. Are her former colleagues also elites?

    I think this is true. Still, too many people who leave rural America for a better life in the big city wind up looking down on those they left behind.

    And those they left behind don’t castigate the folks in the city? Decrying their loose morals and evil ways? c’mon…

    Serious question, James: why are you only worried about one side of this equation?

  32. Moosebreath says:

    @SKI:

    “And those they left behind don’t castigate the folks in the city? Decrying their loose morals and evil ways? c’mon…

    Serious question, James: why are you only worried about one side of this equation?”

    Seconded. Funny how it’s only one side of the coin who refers to their enclaves as “The Real America”. And they’re not referring to the coastal ones.

  33. Erik says:

    @James Joyner: this whole looking down on Red America is something I struggle to understand too. My extended family is in rural Maryland and western PA. I went to what would undoubtedly be considered an elite undergrad and graduate school and have an advanced degree. My politics changed 180 from high school graduation to college graduation. I now live and work in a suburban to urban west coast area. I definitely fit into the rural to urban transition that we are talking about. And I do think that the people I know well from high school that I see when I visit my parents are wrong. I think they suffer from limited worldview and cultural reinforcement from interaction with the other people who still live there. They are insular. They scorn me when I try to interject a broader viewpoint like that I know homosexual people and they are just people. So yes, I do think I have a superior viewpoint. So do they. But I know both worlds. They know one, so how can they even compare? Not just rhetorically, how does that make the “costal elites” like me the one who is wrong?

  34. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    And those they left behind don’t castigate the folks in the city? Decrying their loose morals and evil ways? c’mon…

    Serious question, James: why are you only worried about one side of this equation?

    At this point, you’re trolling. You initiated an off-topic conversation in which I responded that the very problem you say that I’m not worried about is not only worrisome but much worse on the Republican side. I simply noted that a smaller, related problem exists on the Democratic side.

  35. James Joyner says:

    @Erik: I’m a coastal elite myself and have had pretty much the same experience. Who said you were wrong?

  36. Erik says:

    @James Joyner: sorry if you thought the question was unfairly directed at you, it just seemed that this was a problem that you perhaps understood better than I do and that you could help me understand the perspective better. I did not mean to imply that you held that position yourself. I do, however, think it wouldn’t be hard to find people who do in fact equate someone who is a “coastal elite” with someone who is “wrong” and would be happy to tell them that, so I don’t think the question itself is built on an unfair premise

  37. James Joyner says:

    @Erik: I think that many of us who obtain graduate education and then good jobs in coastal metropolitan areas change our views due to leaving our provincial lives. The problem isn’t that we become more tolerant and understanding of such things as the LGBTQ experience but that we tend to view those who haven’t as rubes, morons, and bigots. Which, in turn, tends to harden their views.

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  38. gVOR08 says:

    @James Joyner:

    On this particular score, I think Republicans legitimately believe party and country are the same. That is, they view judicial appointments as the first line of preserving their vision of the country and will therefore do just about anything to further that end.

    This is a subject for which I think we need to distinguish between voters and professionals, the pols and staffs and the “think” tanks. Yes, voters believe they’re fighting Roe v Wade and for a way of life. And some of the loonies, Jordan, Gohmert, etc. may be true believers. Which is convenient for fending off primary challengers on the right. Do you really think McConnell cares about abortion or guns or gays one way or another, except as an issues to ride to reelection?

  39. Mikey says:

    @James Joyner: I grew up in the Midwest and now live not far from you. Getting educated and moving to an area with a lot of educated people did change my views somewhat, but what really did it was living overseas, even if as part of the American military. I learned a great deal about other ways of doing things and still maintain we could learn a great deal from other countries. Unfortunately, Americans sometimes have a pigheaded resistance to adopting anything “not invented here.”

  40. PJ says:

    @James Joyner:

    On this particular score, I think Republicans legitimately believe party and country are the same.

    Which country? The US? Russia?

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  41. Modulo Myself says:

    @James Joyner:

    The same could be said for calling Democrats the party of infanticide and baby-killing. And yet you don’t see this insane resentment running 24/7 in liberals about Red America looking down on Blue America.So it’s not a question of rhetoric or of messaging. It’s reality. Red America (whatever that means) does feel inferior to Blue America. And it’s not about the money. The two people ‘quoted’ in that Zito article are a lawyer and a consultant. They aren’t poor working stiffs angry about white-collar people. It’s resentment, inferiority, and major issues with women and minorities that pushes the Red vs. Blue narrative.

  42. grumpy realist says:

    @Modulo Myself: The rural part of America having a chip on its shoulder about the urban areas has existed since, well, forever. Thomas Beer comments on it in his book The Mauve Decade, which was an analysis of the culture and literary scene of America back in 1890.

    I suspect the attitude really started to ramp up after WWI (“How can you keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree”) and we’ve never looked back.

  43. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    At this point, you’re trolling. You initiated an off-topic conversation in which I responded that the very problem you say that I’m not worried about is not only worrisome but much worse on the Republican side. I simply noted that a smaller, related problem exists on the Democratic side.

    Trolling? Really? I’ve been called many things but a troll has never been one of them. I’ve been a member of this community, albeit not the most prolific, for years. I’ve supported what y’all do via Patreon since you offered the option.

    I raised an issue with the way you phrased something, my perception that your default is towards both-siderism is colored by the hundreds of your posts and comments of yours I’ve consumed, and I’m suddenly a troll? WTF?!

  44. just nutha says:

    My take is that there is nothing for HL92 to say that won’t violate attorney client privilege any more.

  45. just nutha says:

    @James Joyner:

    I legitimately worry that urban elites look down on Red America. It helps feed a vicious cycle.

    I think you make a good and legitimate point that I have also alluded to at times.

    I also think you’re a little tone deaf to this point in your own writing, but that is a different question.

  46. Erik says:

    I agree that negative labels (even ones that are in many cases merited like “bigot”) tend to harden positions. Risking a bothsiderism charge, however, I’ll point out that calling “coasters” effete snobs has the same effect. So how do we resolve this impasse?

    If the problem isn’t that “coastals” are more tolerant, but that “rurals” don’t like the labels that have been applied and harden their positions, how does that inform a solution? More interaction would surely help, as it tends to with all prejudices. “Coastals” have been asked to understand “rurals” ad Infinitum, but I’ve seen little of the reverse demanded. As you point out, rural people do frequently modify their views with experience. Perhaps what is needed here is not that “coastals” police their own language to avoid hurting the sensibilities of “rurals,” or go spend time in rural areas (or read about that experience in the New Yorker or Atlantic) but that “rurals” get out of their comfort zones and learn about and experience the wider world. Sticking stubbornly to what they know and avoiding contradictory information is the very heart of what it means to embody so many of the negative labels that are applied to them. If they hear that and don’t change then they have truly earned those labels. And at some point the world needs to move on and stop coddling people that willfully go through life with their eyes and ears shut. It is simply not practical to expend the time and energy required to achieve unanimity on some of these issues before moving forward.

    Being in the minority sucks, and minorities should not be targeted for harassment or other bad treatment, but they also should not dictate to the majority. Interestingly, this is exactly the type of argument that Red Americans seem to frequently employ against other minorities. Somehow I doubt they would accept the argument when turned around like this though.

    This issue is something that I will continue to think about and struggle with. I want to do my best to be part of the solution and not the problem, and I appreciate you sharing your perspective. Since the power to solve the problem is not entirely within my, or anyone’s, hands (short of capitulation anyway) it takes more than effort from one side to solve, and that means honest efforts from the opposing camp to meet part way. Much like the republicans whom they tend to elect, however, compromise seems anathema to them. Many seem to believe what they believe and want what they want, aren’t going to change, and will burn everything down to get it. Hence the behavior of their surrogates in Congress. It isn’t a bug to them, it is a feature. They are getting what they want, or no one gets anything. We ignore their BATNA to our own, and our country’s, peril. If they insist on clinging to an all or nothing solution, that’s what we should give them. Except in this case it needs to be nothing for them instead of nothing for everyone. Evolutionary theory predicts that groups adapt or go extinct. They can chose extinction, but they can’t choose to take us with them unless we let them.

    Sorry, I know this isn’t the direction you want this thread to go so I especially appreciate you extending the conversation as far as you did, and I now I’ll stop pushing it off track.

  47. steve says:

    I am sure we all remember the angst over Kavanaugh. How awful he was treated and how it was the worst ever thing that happened with judge selection. I said it at the time and will stand by it that the stuff McConnell has been doing to not seat Democrats and to make sure very young, often not qualified, Republicans obtain judge positions, far out weighs any perceived slight to Kavanaugh who was never really at risk of not being confirmed. I have very little respect for the courts anymore. We should back to trial by combat which would likely be more honest (and more entertaining).

    Steve

  48. Gustopher says:

    @James Joyner:

    The problem isn’t that we become more tolerant and understanding of such things as the LGBTQ experience but that we tend to view those who haven’t as rubes, morons, and bigots. Which, in turn, tends to harden their views.

    But, they are rubes, morons and bigots.

    I think a problem is that we often forget that we are also rubes, morons and bigots, and so we treat them with contempt. We should have at least a balance between compassion and contempt for them.

    But a far larger problem is a right wing echo chamber, led by Fox News, that trains them to never question their beliefs, and view anyone who does as the enemy. I know who my enemy is — it’s not the truck driver in Oklahoma with the closed mind, it’s the folks at Fox News who closed it.

    Ok, the incels and the stormfronters are also my enemy.

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  49. James Joyner says:

    @grumpy realist:

    The rural part of America having a chip on its shoulder about the urban areas has existed since, well, forever.

    That’s fair.

    @just nutha:

    I also think you’re a little tone deaf to this point in your own writing, but that is a different question.

    I’m sure I have blind spots but don’t understand what you meant WRT “this point”?

    @Erik:

    “Coastals” have been asked to understand “rurals” ad Infinitum, but I’ve seen little of the reverse demanded.

    I don’t know that this is true so much as it is that the “Coastals” think/write more about it because that’s what elites do. The “Coastal” view is the elite view and it governs the universities, prestige media, etc. So they’re naturally going to produce more thumb-suckers about understanding the “rurals” than vice-versa.

    @steve:

    I am sure we all remember the angst over Kavanaugh. How awful he was treated and how it was the worst ever thing that happened with judge selection.

    I’m not understanding your point here. If he were innocent of the charges, then it would have indeed been an awful treatment. Even as it was, it was certainly humiliating.

    @Gustopher:

    But a far larger problem is a right wing echo chamber, led by Fox News, that trains them to never question their beliefs, and view anyone who does as the enemy. I know who my enemy is — it’s not the truck driver in Oklahoma with the closed mind, it’s the folks at Fox News who closed it.

    Yes. The problem existed before Fox and narrow-casting but it’s been exacerbated greatly by it.

    @SKI:

    I raised an issue with the way you phrased something, my perception that your default is towards both-siderism is colored by the hundreds of your posts and comments of yours I’ve consumed, and I’m suddenly a troll?

    I don’t think you’re a troll but the back-and-forth here seemed like trolling. I don’t know how you go from a discussion where I note my concern about something the Republicans do, acknowledge that the way they do it is far worse than anything the Dems do along those lines, but note that I also have a minor concern with something the Dems do and respond “Serious question, James: why are you only worried about one side of this equation?” It’s just bizarre.

  50. James Pearce says:

    @Erik:

    “Coastals” have been asked to understand “rurals” ad Infinitum, but I’ve seen little of the reverse demanded.

    Rural people are way more familiar with city life than city people are with rural life.

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  51. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    I don’t think you’re a troll but the back-and-forth here seemed like trolling. I don’t know how you go from a discussion where I note my concern about something the Republicans do, acknowledge that the way they do it is far worse than anything the Dems do along those lines, but note that I also have a minor concern with something the Dems do and respond “Serious question, James: why are you only worried about one side of this equation?” It’s just bizarre.

    Ah. The problem with pronouns and references.

    My comment about “one side” referred not to Dems vs Republicans (which my original reply had acknowledged you differentiated) but to urban vs rural. You expressed concern about urban elites being dismissive/rude towards rural America but no concern about the converse.

    So, while I believe that you have a built in default setting towards bothsiderism (basically you seem to always make at least a nod towards making it both sides) in the context of partisan politics but only worried about only one comment was about not being concerned at all about the antipathy towards urban city dwellers (also known as a majority of the country) from rural residents.

  52. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner:

    don’t understand what you meant WRT “this point”?

    The same point that I was complementing you on in the sentence before the one you quoted.

    I legitimately worry that urban elites look down on Red America. It helps feed a vicious cycle.

  53. Teve says:

    @steve:

    I am sure we all remember the angst over Kavanaugh. How awful he was treated and how it was the worst ever thing that happened with judge selection

    a few hours ago I went to Breitbart and Gateway pundit, and one of them, I forget which, said that Christine Blasey Ford was going to go to jail soon. I didn’t stop to partake of their explanation, but it was probably something like “bitches be lying”.

  54. wr says:

    @James Pearce: I’m sorry, James. Weren’t enough people paying attention to you on other threads?

  55. An Interested Party says:

    The problem isn’t that we become more tolerant and understanding of such things as the LGBTQ experience but that we tend to view those who haven’t as rubes, morons, and bigots. Which, in turn, tends to harden their views.

    Oh, I’m sure with the combination of things like Fox News and various conservative Christian denominations preaching their “values” it doesn’t take much work by “coastal elites” to cause certain people to harden their homophobic views, among other views…

  56. James Joyner says:

    @SKI:

    My comment about “one side” referred not to Dems vs Republicans (which my original reply had acknowledged you differentiated) but to urban vs rural. You expressed concern about urban elites being dismissive/rude towards rural America but no concern about the converse.

    So, while I believe that you have a built in default setting towards bothsiderism (basically you seem to always make at least a nod towards making it both sides) in the context of partisan politics but only worried about only one comment was about not being concerned at all about the antipathy towards urban city dwellers (also known as a majority of the country) from rural residents.

    Ah. That’s fair.

    I really see that as hand-in-glove with the Democrat-Republican differences already discussed. I think both are destructive and the latter is more prevalent. The institutional system unduly weighs the interests of the rural over the urban and, to the extent some longtime Red states are turning Purple or Blue, we’re seeing some illegitimate attempts to suppress votes to preserve the old balance.

    All that said, in terms of sheer discourse, I think there’s more danger in punching down than up. Even mild statements based largely in truth like Obama’s “bitter clingers” and Clinton’s “deplorables” do real damage to bringing the country together. Despite the political decks being stacked, the cities have the media, the money, the intellectual machinery, etc. Rural America keeps losing the battles over the social issues. While I think they ought to lose most of those battles, I’ve long preferred that they do it through persuasion and the democratic process rather than the whims of the courts. Otherwise, they won’t view the outcomes as legitimate. That’s dangerous for the polity.