After Election of Reagan, Kagan Yearned for a 'More Leftist Left'

By Pete Winn | May 11, 2010 | 2:29 PM EDT

Elena Kagan, at the Daily Princetonian student newspaper. (Photo courtesy of the Daily Princetonian and Princeton University Archives.)

( - Elena Kagan, President Barack Obama’s nominee to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, has always been a committed liberal--and said so as early as 1980, as the undergraduate editor of the student newspaper at Princeton.

Kagan, who served as editorial committee chairman for the Daily Princetonian, even wrote of her hope in the aftermath of the election of 1980 and the Reagan Revolution that “a new, revitalized, perhaps more leftist left will once again come to the fore.”
In the signed editorial  that she wrote Nov. 10, 1980, Kagan described  the pivotal election and the devastating loss of her favorite candidate--ultra-liberal congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman. But the young Kagan also told readers that she grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where she said, “nobody ever admitted to voting Republican” and the “real” primary was the Democratic primary.
“Perhaps because of this background, I absorbed such liberal principles early; more to the point, I have retained them fairly intact to this day,” Kagan wrote. “And that was why at 12:45 Wednesday morning, when I listened to Liz Holtzman hoarsely proclaim that ‘the only thing I intended to lose in this campaign is my voice,’ I wanted desperately to believe her. And that was why, at 5:00 that same morning, when I finally realized that her faith just wasn’t going to be confirmed, I sat down and cried.”
Kagan admitted that she got drunk--“a lot of people did”--after hearing the results of the election of 1980, which swept Ronald Reagan and a class of conservative Republicans into office.
“Reagan I expected, but (Sen. Steve) Symms (R-Idaho), (Sen. James) Abdnor (R-S.D.), (Sen. Dan) Quayle (R-Ind.) and (Sen. Chuck) Grassley (R-Iowa) I did not,” she wrote.
Kagan added, sounding like something of a veteran liberal political strategist: “Even after the returns came in, I found it hard to conceive of the victories of these anonymous but Moral Majority-backed opponents of Senators (Frank) Church (D-Idaho), (George) McGovern (D-S.D.), (Birch) Bayh (D-Ind.) and (John) Culver (D-Iowa), these avengers of ‘innocent life’ and the B-1 Bomber, these beneficiaries of a general turn to the right and a profound disorganization on the left.” 
She went on to say: “Looking back on last Tuesday, I can see that our gut response--our emotion-packed conclusion that the world had gone mad, that liberalism was dead and that there was no longer any place for the ideals we held or the beliefs we espoused--was a false one.” 
She concluded: "In my more rational moments, I can now argue that the next few years will be marked by American disillusionment with conservative programs and solutions, and that a new, revitalized, perhaps more leftist left will once again come to the fore.” 

The editorial was reprinted by the Daily Princetonian after Kagan was nominated to the Senate by President Obama.