The filling, by appointment, of federal court vacancies for judges and clerkships during these last Republican-controlled years is an area where our recent votes will not carry any weight because the federal process has been quietly redirected over the last 6 years or so.
Graydon Carter's book "What We've Lost" describes this redirection in depth. He states that in 1986, Pat Buchanan, Reagan's communications director, laid out the strategy for conservative judicial appointments, saying "(The strategy) could do more to advance the social agenda - school prayer, anti-pornography, anti-bussing, right-to-life, and quotas in employment - than anything Congress can accomplish in 20 years." The critical factor being that federal judges stay active almost forever; Supreme Court appointees are there for life.
Carter also points out that as a result of the Republican-controlled Senate, enough blockage of Clinton's candidates had occurred that when Bush came into office "there were eighty-one federal court vacancies including more than two dozen empty seats on the circuit courts." The Bush administration has rapidly filled the void by nominating right-wing ideologues, all as young as possible so as to prolong the ultra- conservative social agenda.
The Bush White House made the Federalist Society the dominant body in reviewing judicial nominees, Carter writes, noting that Bush has marginalized the American Bar Association, which was the vetting body for federal judgeships for 50 years.
It is a Republican sucker-punch to the centrist federal court tradition in the U.S., which appears to have been allowed by a serious lack of understanding or congressional power by the Democrats. Your vote in 2004 will not be effective in containing a far-right wing agenda, even if you are a moderate Republican.
Read Carter's book, which is available at the Enterprise Public Library. Carter's credentials are editor in chief of Vanity Fair, and former editor of The New York Observer.