The politics of division and distraction, conservatives' claims of liberalism's dangers, the wisdom of amoral foreign policy, a partisan challenge to a Supreme Court justice, and threats to the constitutionally mandated balance between the three branches of government: however of the moment these matters might seem, they are clearly presaged in events chronicled by Joshua E. Kastenberg in this book, the first in-depth account of a campaign to impeach Supreme Court justice William O. Douglas nearly fifty years ago.
On April 15, 1970, at President Richard Nixon's behest, Republican House Minority Leader Gerald Ford brazenly called for the impeachment of Douglas, the nation's leading liberal judge-and the House Judiciary Committee responded with a six-month investigation, while the Senate awaited a potential trial that never occurred. Ford's actions against Douglas mirrored the anger that millions of Americans, then as now, harbored toward changing social, economic, and moral norms, and a federal government seemingly unconcerned with the lives of everyday working white Americans. Those actions also reflected, as this book reveals, what came to be known as the Republicans' "southern strategy," a cynical attempt to exploit the hostility of white southern voters toward the civil rights movement. Kastenberg describes the political actors, ambitions, alliances, and maneuvers behind the move to impeach Douglas-including the Nixon administration's vain hope of deflecting attention from a surprisingly unpopular invasion of Cambodia-and follows the ill-advised effort to its ignominious conclusion, with consequences that resonate to this day.
Marking a turning point in American politics, The Campaign to Impeach Justice William O. Douglas is a sobering, cautionary tale, a critical chapter in the history of constitutional malfeasance, and a reminder of the importance of judicial independence in a politically polarized age.
"This richly detailed history explores fascinating questions of judicial ethics, impeachment, and racial politics. Its deep-dive account of Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon's alliance to impeach William O. Douglas could not be more timely."--Noah Feldman, author of Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR's Great Supreme Court Justices