Remember When Richard Shelby Was A Democrat And Voted Against Reagan’s Pro-Life Supreme Court Nominee?

Politics is a funny thing.

And it only gets funnier when you have broaden your scope and look at it with a wide historical context.

Alabama’s senior Senator Richard Shelby is not a big fan of President Barack Obama. No big shock there. His voting record was recently ranked as the third most conservative in the whole of the Senate.

As a consequence, Shelby has vowed to “adamantly oppose” any Supreme Court nominee that Obama offers up to the Senate for confirmation to replace Conservative icon Antonin Scalia.

“This great loss brings on a great responsibility for the United States Senate,” Shelby said in a press release on the matter. “Justice Scalia’s replacement should be considered carefully and thoughtfully because it is vital to our nation’s future that we confirm a justice who will continue his legacy.”

But Shelby has not always followed his own advice.

Back in 1987, Shelby was a vocal opponent of Judge Robert Bork‘s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Bork was a favorite of President Ronald Reagan and was seen as a conservative firebrand who would help keep the court firmly leaning to the right.

But at the time Shelby was a Democrat (and would be until he ditched the Dems for the GOP in 1994) and had little patience for Bork, a man who could have helped Scalia take the court in an even more Originalist direction.

“Overall, he [Bork] will have a divisive influence in this country, he will polarize this country and I think that’s not good for my state or the nation,” Shelby said in a C-SPAN call in show in October of 1987. “That’s why I’m going to vote against him.”

Then Sen. Ted Kennedy was a leading opponent of Bork, and he famously argued against the jurist in a way that made him sound like a right-wing nut. Kennedy gave a well-remembered invective against Bork on the floor of the Senate after Reagan announced his nomination:

“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens.”

Bork’s nomination was eventually defeated in the Senate 42 votes to 58.

“It’s all politics,” Shelby said on C-SPAN in 1987. “People say that nomination to the Supreme Court is apolitical. It’s not apolitical. It is part of the political process. It always has been, always will be.”

While some things change, other things stay the same.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Medill DC/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

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About the Author
Rich Robinson is the CEO and publisher of Rise News. He is also a journalist and a native of Miami. Robinson graduated from the University of Alabama and can be followed on Twitter @RichRobMiami.
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