It is one of the vagaries of the US constitution that patient amassing of US Supreme Court appointees over many years can make a fundamental difference to the country's law-making.
Even though Gerald Ford is dead, his appointee to the Supreme Court, John Stevens, still sits on the bench. Ronald Reagan is long gone but Messrs Scalia and Kennedy, who he appointed, carry on in the Supreme Court. So do two of G.H.W.Bush's (Senior) appointees.
Whether or not the judges are appointed by a Republican President is no guarantee of a conservatism as judges, as Day O'Connor and Souter have shown.
However, with the replacement of Day O'Connor with Alito, in the last week, the shift of power to a clear conservative agenda has become evident in the decisions of the court on subjects such as:
Students' free speech
Erwin Chemerinsky, a liberal Duke University law professor, comments:
This was the year the conservatives finally got their court. Roberts and Alito have been everything conservatives could have hoped for and everything liberals could have feared.