Rehnquist is already being compared to the likes of former chief justices John Marshall and Earl Warren, credited for moving the court in a consistent, conservative direction.
However, calling Rehnquist a conservative along the lines of Antonin Scalia would be a mistake. Though he favored states rights over federal power, the Chief Justice also voted in favor of homosexual rights and free speech, something a hard-line conservative most likely would not do.
Rehnquist also changed Supreme Court procedure, significantly cutting the number of cases the court can hear and prohibiting unruly closed-door sessions.
If there ever was bickering among the justices, Rehnquist was quick to shut it down.
Rehnquists legacy has a few holes. First, his attempts to derail Roe v. Wade all failed, though he was successful in setting more limits on criteria for an abortion. Rehnquist also wanted to set greater limits upon affirmative action, which he only partially accomplished.
The Gratz v. Bollinger ruling, involving the University of Michigans admissions policies, was his finest moment in that regard.
Rehnquists conservative rulings in these areas will seem like childs play in comparison to what may be ahead for the Court. Rehnquists successor has yet to be confirmed, but with the conservative Bush administration firmly in charge of the Senate and the House, Rehnquists pseudo-conservatism would be just a taste of what we as a people may have in store.
The death of Rehnquist and the retirement of OConnor are major blows to the liberal-conservative balance on the Court. The fabric of our nation could be altered by the Courts new structure. But what does that mean? Well, if youre gay, if you want an abortion or if you believe the federal government should be given more power, you are out of luck.
The new court will try its hardest to reverse the rulings made in the Warren court, and try to further rulings made in the Rehnquist court.
Today in America, we live in some confusing times; half of our population disagrees with our government. We have had times like these before, but we have always had a Supreme Court to maintain the moderate balance America prefers.
Now, we have more conservative than liberal members, and the decline of democracy will continue.
Contributing writer Matthew Burgess is a first year from Mound, Minn. He majors in psychology.