Supremely Political: The Role of Ideology and Presidential Management in Unsuccessful Supreme Court Nominations

By John Massaro | Go to book overview

5. EXPLAINING UNSUCCESSFUL
SUPREME COURT NOMINATIONS

WHY DID THE Senate, after a long period of acquiescence, refuse to confirm the Fortas, Haynsworth, and Carswell nominations? Are these three cases separate, idiosyncratic events sharing little in common, or do they reveal a discernible pattern? Before providing answers to these and related questions, a review of the key factors leading to the Senate's refusals to confirm the Fortas, Haynsworth, and Carswell nominations is in order.

The major factor in all three of these unsuccessful nominations was the perceived ideology of the nominees. Despite the presence of non-ideological, non-partisan grounds upon which to base opposition to confirmation, senators generally responded to the nominations on the basis of whether they approved of the basic philosophy they anticipated the nominees would bring to the Supreme Court.

Analysis of the Fortas, Haynsworth, and Carswell nominations further suggests that ideological opposition alone would very likely not have been sufficient to bring about the Senate's unfavorable actions. Unpropitious timing played a pivotal contributory role in the withholding of the chief justiceship from Fortas. More importantly, failures in presidential management contributed significantly to bringing about the Senate's negative actions in all three cases. And while presidential management always loomed less influential than the nominees' perceived ideology, it was decisive in all three instances in generating the additional votes changing victory into defeat.


A PATTERN OF UNSUCCESSFUL NOMINATIONS

The Fortas, Haynsworth, and Carswell nominations were all forwarded to the Senate amid one of the two adverse conditions strongly associated

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