The announcement yesterday of the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the Supreme Court, was a blow to liberals. And it was also no accident. His timing was deliberate and purposeful. Yes, he was socially liberal enough to protect Roe v Wade and Gay Marriage, but he was otherwise a conservative through and through. He constantly sided with wealthy, powerful corporations over powerless individuals, and voted for the profoundly destructive and partisan Citizens United decision that opened the floodgates of money in politics and helped bring us to a moment where a minority party, the Republicans, can maintain power through endless cash donated by greedy billionaire plutocrats. He retired now because he clearly wants Trump to fill his seat with impunity. His official retirement letter even started, “My Dear Mr. President.” Dalia Lithwick of Slate notes:
Many of us predicted that Kennedy would not allow Trump to replace him with someone who would dismantle his legacy. We were wrong. Many of us believed that a lifelong devotee of dignity, civility, and the rule of law would not want his work tarnished by a president who routinely attacks individual judges and the very notion of an independent judiciary. We were wrong.
Kennedy’s retirement means that Trump will get to nominate a Justice that will vote to outlaw abortion, as Trump has repeatedly forewarned. The Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat in the final year of Obama’s term, refusing to allow moderate nominee Merrick Garland a vote. Mitch McConnell blocked the vote on Garland in the Senate for 293 days. And because of this stolen seat, it looks quite possible that the Republicans will succeed in confirming Trump’s nominee. But they need to do it quickly, before the midterm elections, and they will try.
So we are living in a nation where 3 million more voters cast their ballots for a Democrat, yet the Republicans won the presidency. In the last national election, Democratic Senators received 26 million more votes than Republican senators, yet the Republicans control the Senate. Democrats elected Obama for two terms, yet he was cheated out of a Supreme Court seat. And now, radical right wing ideologues may succeed in overturning Roe v Wade.
The Republicans need to game the system, break the rules, rewrite the rules, and outright cheat because their ideas stink, and because they increasingly represent a minority of Americans. But the cash they receive from the billionaire class, along with a TV network and multiple radio networks dedicated to smearing their political opponents, keep them in power. We need to beat them back, and we need to do it soon.
The fight over the next Justice will be bitter, and success will take more than the loud objections and fist-pounding of our Senators. The only way we stand a chance of preserving Roe v Wade, of preserving the sovereignty of a woman’s body, is if we also rise up, pound our fists, and mobilize. Pro choice Republicans Collins and Murkowski need to be confronted with the magnitude of the historic disgrace they face if they vote for a Trump nominee before the midterms, a nominee that will surely be an anti abortion partisan. Do they want that as their legacy?
Please call Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and let them know that we expect them to brawl on this issue. We expect them, at the very least, to implore and arm-twist all 49 Democrats to act in unison, and continually remind McConnell and the GOP that their rationale for blocking Garland applies now, before the midterms. If McConnell moves ahead with a nomination after stealing a seat from Obama, it would be the pinnacle of hypocrisy. But McConnell has no shame.
Yesterday was another in a seemingly endless series of deflating reminders that elections have consequences. We have to mobilize our voters and never again let our communities take elections for granted. It starts with calling our representatives and protesting, which we must continue to do. It continues with voting out our feckless Congressman, partisan hack John Faso. It ends with…never. We must never stop participating in the politics of our nation. Any citizen of a Democracy who ignores elections does so at great peril, as we are experiencing right now.