Anthony Kennedy, a longtime “moderate” swing vote on the Supreme Court is retiring which will give Donald Trump another chance to stack the court with a radical right-wing justice in addition to Neil Gorsuch, who occupies the seat stolen from Barack Obama.
Kennedy has been toying with the idea of retiring for quite some time, and his opinions have become increasingly right wing. Kennedy recently sided with conservatives to rule in favor of Trump’s racist Muslim ban, gutted public sector unions, paved the way for racial gerrymandering, and prohibited California from requiring faith-based “crisis pregnancy centers” that dupe women seeking abortions into changing their minds to disclose that they’re not medically licensed.
Kennedy’s retirement will most likely change the face of the Supreme Court for generations, cementing a radical right-wing majority that’s become shown a growing eagerness to strike down laws they don’t agree with using dubious (and at times contradictory) reasoning. Because there were four liberal justices and four conservative justices, the radical right wing of the court had to convince the more moderate Kennedy to join their side. That’s why many people called the current court “The Kennedy Court.” Now it will be “The Trump Court” or “The McConnell Court,” if you prefer.
Given Trump’s list of potential Supreme Court picks, a gift to the rabid right-wing base and the millionaires and billionaires that stand to profit from the dismantling of regulations, the social safety net, and democracy in general, things are looking bleak.
Trump is signaling that he’ll seek to fill the seat before the midterm elections and Democrats have little leverage to stop him if this is the case. Republicans need only 51 votes to confirm a new Supreme Court justice and the prospect of remaking the Supreme Court will prove too tantalizing for even the most strident Never Trump Senators.
Even if Democrats can delay the vote on the nomination, they must overcome a difficult electoral map to retake control of the Senate in the fall. But that prospect will be even more remote given how an open Supreme Court seat galvanizes the GOP base.
Of course, even if Democrats succeed in both delaying a confirmation vote and retaking the Senate, they could cave to pressure from Trump and Republicans to confirm his nomination, and the Supreme Court will continue to push our country down the path towards minority rule by the fringes of the Republican Party.
With Kennedy’s help, the Voting Rights Act has been dismantled, dark money from shady billionaires has swamped our elections, racial gerrymandering is no longer forbidden, and public sector unions—a source of grassroots Democratic power—have been all but dismantled. Roe v. Wade is now hanging from a thread, just awaiting a new right-wing justice and a court challenge.
The only path forward for Democrats and democracy itself in the United States is to vote for Democrats in the fall and keep the pressure on them to fight any right-wing nominees. We have to mobilize, register people, volunteer to get out the vote and more. We can’t let our country slip away at the hands of the uber-wealthy, hate mongers, and fascists. Take a break to mourn and then let’s get to work.