The news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death had barely broken when Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell announced that he would move swiftly to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. As of this writing, President Donald Trump has issued a statement on RBG’s death (which he obviously didn’t write), but not about his plans for replacing her. It doesn’t take much imagination to envision the glee with which he received the news.
Doubtless, in Trump’s mind, the foremost question is whether it is more to his advantage to push for her replacement before the election or hold out until after. McConnell is likely pondering a similar question. Pushing hard for a quick replacement could be seen as securing more goodwill among potential Trump and down-ballot Republican voters. Holding off until after the election could motivate more votes from conservatives wishing to ensure that Joe Biden does not have the chance to nominate a new Justice.
Whichever way they go, there is only one option for those who care at all about civil and human rights in the United States, and that is to obstruct Republican plans. But with Trump in the White House and McConnell tightly controlling the Senate, many will ask, “how?”
No doubt, we will be forced to depend in some measure on the feckless Democrats in Congress and to the even less inspiring presidential campaign of Joe Biden. There is just as little doubt that, if that is all we have in our corner, there is no hope.
But depending on Democrat politicians is not our only option. We ourselves, the people of the United States, can also be an instrument of change.
It’s time to test those age-old aphorisms we love to cite over sips of coffee and nibbles of pastries.
“You have a republic if you can keep it.”
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good (people) to do nothing.”
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”
“When a person places the proper value on freedom, there is nothing under the sun that [they] will not do to acquire that freedom.”
We can quote these eloquent statements with pursed lips and furrowed brows and sound very smart. But now is the time that we discover their meaning. We have arrived at the crossroads of what freedom there is in the United States.
The streets are there waiting for us, and they are the field on which we can and must defend our rights. This is a fight for all who oppose fascism and tyranny. Whatever else we may disagree about, protection of our own rights is something a great many of us can agree upon whole-heartedly.
In the streets we can raise our voices and make it clear that this country will not stand by and watch a shell game that robs the citizens of the United States of the ability to debate and determine our own political reality.
Mitch McConnell made it clear, almost from the very day that Justice Antonin Scalia died—February 13, 2016, quite a bit longer before the election that year—that he would ensure that Barack Obama would not choose a new Supreme Court Justice to replace him. He would argue for the next nine months and beyond that, with an election coming up, the American people would speak at the polls as to what sort of Justice they wanted on the Court. He will now make the precisely opposite argument, if he bothers to make any argument to defend his actions at all.
The hypocrisy is sickening, but in and of itself, not unusual. But in practice, this brinksmanship cannot be tolerated. The Senate majority leader cannot be permitted to exercise such far-reaching power over a constitutional process. Americans can debate the proper role of the majority leader in this regard, but no one can, with any honesty, logically sanction the Machiavellian manipulation of a process that grants lifetime appointments to judges on the highest court in the land.
Do our voices matter at all? If you believe the answer is no, then we have nothing to talk about. You are saying there is no possibility of even a hint of democracy, that those in power have robbed the rest of us of any control over the conditions under which we live.
I don’t believe that. I believe our complacency and our busy lives have led us to mute ourselves, and convinced us that when a president or senator decides something, there is nothing we can do. But we can.
We can do what has worked throughout history to allow us to form unions, to win women’s suffrage, to make what progress has been made in matters of racial justice. We have done things in this country that had seemed beyond imagination—ask any married couple who come from different races or from the same legal gender classification.
Our rights were never handed to us, and we have never kept them by being meek, compliant citizens. We win our rights, we win a better life, and we keep what we won by fighting, in the streets, outside and inside the halls of power, whether those halls be in Washington or in the local district or state office of a congressional representative or senator.
McConnell set this framework. He decided that he would dispense with every guideline about Supreme Court nominations and confirmations. He made up the principle by which he blocked Obama’s nominations, and he departed from specific Senate tradition to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed. McConnell ran a circus to confirm a thoroughly political and unqualified judge, Bret Kavanaugh. And now, he wants to stack the Court against the possibility of a Democrat-controlled White House and Congress.
We cannot allow this mockery of due process, of democracy, and of the rule of law to proceed. Doing so sacrifices our rights.
In the streets, we will raise the political costs of following this immoral path. We will make it clear that Americans won’t stand for it, and if we go out there, we will have broad support. We will make it clear to the senators who will ultimately decide whether to support Trump and McConnell’s SCOTUS coup that they will be held accountable for their actions. They, unlike Trump, all must win popular elections. They will understand that, even if they are safe individually, collectively more of their Republican colleagues will be replaced. Democrats will know they have to fight with us, with everything that they have in their own political arsenals.
I’ll do what it takes to stop McConnell. Are you? Are you willing to act to defend your rights, and your and your descendants’ futures? Or are you willing to lose what little power the people of the United States have left?
I ask you to join me in defending ourselves. Who’s with me? Watch this space for information about what you can do.