Kagan and the Cult of Personality

Mary Dudziak is right regarding Elena Kagan: “let’s focus on her ideas and accomplishments, and not on the unsurprising idea of a single Supreme Court nominee.”

The problem, though, is the cult of personality that has developed around Supreme Court Justices over the past few decades, aided to a substantial degree by how presidential administrations have tried to “sell” their nominees. Who, after all, hasn’t gotten choked up after hearing the life story of the Supreme Court nominee who was raised-by-a-Jewish/Italian/Puerto Rican-immigrant-single-grandparent-on-a-ranch-in-the-barrio-of-Pin-Point-Arizona-and-has-two-adorable-kids?

Given that Justices’ personal histories have become such a significant part of the confirmation process, and the Justices themselves are followed like rock stars, athletes, or prominent politicians [albeit by a much smaller segment of the population for the former two]–all of whose romantic entanglements frequently find their way into the media–it’s little wonder that curiosity has been piqued about Kagan’s romantic life.

UPDATE: For more on the Court’s cult of celebrity, see this essay by my colleagues Craig Lerner and Nelson Lund.

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