chapter  XXXI
XXXI Politics and the Constitution
Pages 11

The last decades of the twentieth century brought signifi cant changes in the constitutional life of the nation. The judicial liberalism that began in the era of the New Deal reversed course in the more conservative political climate of the 1970s. A backlash against the Warren Court helped elect President Nixon in 1968, and the Court thereafter charted an increasingly conservative course. For the next twenty years, vacancies were fi lled by Republican presidents. William O. Douglas, the last of the New Deal justices, retired in 1975 after having served longer than any justice in history. His departure signaled the end of an era. President Ford, who took offi ce after Nixon’s resignation in 1973, came under heavy conservative pressure to appoint Robert Bork, a brilliant legal scholar and former solicitor general. Chief Justice Burger had disappointed many conservatives by failing to stand fi rmly against abortion and affi rmative action. Nor did he provide the intellectual leadership needed to overcome the tendencies of the Warren years. Bork had the brilliance and ideological commitment needed to turn the Court around. But Ford, possibly with the coming presidential election in mind, hesitated making a controversial appointment. So he appointed instead John Paul Stevens, a judge of the federal circuit court of appeals. Stevens, a moderate Republican, was confi rmed without diffi culty.