Breyer’s Retirement Gives Democrats a Dose of (Cautious) Optimism


It also may ultimately do little to motivate voters in midterm election season sure to be dominated by issues like the economy and the pandemic, which have helped to drag down Mr. Biden’s poll numbers and left his party at risk of losing control of the House and possibly the Senate in November.

Still, it is a chance for Mr. Biden to add the first woman of color to the court since Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who was nominated by President Barack Obama in 2009, and to remind those who voted for Mr. Biden that he can still make good on the promises he has made to them.

“I hope that this is a moment for all Democrats to rally around their president and move quickly to show that with power came results,” said Faiz Shakir, a close adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. “Especially when a lot of the legislative agenda is stalemated, this can send the message back to voters who put him in the White House; here’s tangible results from the fact that you put us in power.”

The vacancy could also give Democrats the opportunity to show a united front after a blistering debate over voting rights: Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who voted against changing Senate rules to pass voting rights legislation, have voted for all of Mr. Biden’s judicial appointments.

Although the makeup of the Supreme Court in the past had been an issue that galvanized voters on the right to a far greater extent than those on the left, several strategists said recent developments — including a move by the court to take up a case that challenges Roe v. Wade, the landmark ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion — had changed that.

Fatima Goss Graves, president and chief executive of the National Women’s Law Center, said that a refusal by the court to block a Texas law that would prohibit most abortions also awakened voters to what was at stake. “People expect the court to be an institution that not only interprets our laws but that actually reflects this country,” she said.