One irony of President Obama’s nomination today of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court is that the effect of a Democratic president filling the seat of Republican-appointed Justice John Paul Stevens will likely be to make the Court more conservative.
Another irony is that after vowing to name a justice with "a keen understanding of how the law affects the daily lives of the American people," the president has chosen a New-York born graduate of Princeton and Harvard Law School who has spent almost her entire career teaching in elite law schools and working in the upper echelons of the Clinton and Obama Administrations. Her experience has been far from the circumstances of most ordinary Americans. (Stevens is the only member of the current Court who did not attend Harvard or Yale Law School.)
This is not to deny the 50-year-old Kagan’s notable strengths: a brilliant legal mind, demonstrated skills as a consensus-builder and conciliator as dean of Harvard Law School from 2003 to 2008, an engaging personality, skilled at getting along with liberals and conservatives alike, and parents whose lives and careers exposed her to the struggles of ordinary people — plus, the prospect of serving as a justice for 40 years if she, like Stevens, lasts until age 90.