Sometimes silly arguments arise over the foremost public intellectual of our time. While meaningless, these debates can be fun. Paul Krugman's name certainly has popped up many a time for good reason; his prescient economic and political analysis has been bolstered by his Nobel Prize in Economics and his powerful perch on the New York Times' opinion page. Ta-Nehisi Coates nominated Melissa Harris-Perry and then a lot of people nominated him instead. There are strong arguments for many a candidate: Thomas Friedman, Malcolm Gladwell, Nicholas Kristof, Larry Summers, and Steven Pinker all come to mind.
I would select Noah Feldman as someone of increasing importance. In the run up to the 2016 election, several issues seem to be rising to the forefront of the country's mind. The Supreme Court, with Justice Scalia's empty seat now up for grabs, is going to remain a campaign issue until November. The coming confirmation battle and the release of a number of incredibly important decisions over the next few months will also vault the Court to the top of the headlines. Abortion rights, deferred action for immigrants, affirmative action, public-sector unions, redistricting, and the death penalty are all up in the air.
Fears of terrorism and the rise of ISIS are also increasingly on many Americans' minds. Such concerns have dramatic effect on our policies: immigration, privacy, and religious freedom could all be affected. Most importantly, terror concerns will affect our foreign policy. If, when, where, and how we intervene in the Middle East has been a defining question of the 21st century, and it will continue to be so in the coming years.
Few if any people can claim genuine expertise on both issues- except Noah Feldman. He earned D.Phil while studying the Middle East at Oxford a Rhodes Scholar, and is an acclaimed Con Law scholar . He has clerked for Justice Souter and helped draft the Iraqi Constitution. He has written books on both Islamic politics and the Supreme Court. He is an incredibly prolific columnist at Bloomberg View.
His book Scorpions, which in my mind may be the best book yet written about the Supreme Court, is a warning to both President Obama and the Senate that sometimes you don't know what you are going to get with a nominee. Justice Hugo Black was a member of the KKK before he joined the Senate. In time, he became one of the most passionate advocates for civil rights on the Supreme Court. Justice Felix Frankfurter was a leading liberal intellectual when appointed; he retired with a legacy as a moderately conservative justice. Justice Jackson advocated for expansive presidential powers as Attorney General; on the court, he wrote the most famous opinion of all time limiting executive power. Some of these changes may have been predictable, others certainly were not.
If you want to get deep analysis on the most pressing issues of the day, read Noah Feldman.