American civil rights have survived Republican presidencies. Many, in fact.
I’m reminding you of this, dear reader, because I’ve had countless Hillary supporters inform me that I must support their candidate instead of voting third party or else Donald Trump will appoint fifty-seven Supreme Court justices in four years, who will reverse Roe vs. Wade, re-legalize slavery, and ban high-absorbency tampons.
Okay, I exaggerate a tiny bit, but only because they’re exaggerating too. They started it.
Seriously though, I’ve had Hillary shills show up on my posts telling me that Trump will somehow be able to appoint four Supreme Court justices in one term (I swear they’re literally saying four now), who will in fact reverse Roe vs. Wade, making abortion illegal in America.
And since I’ve been hearing it from them, I’m sure you are too, since these people are all regurgitating the exact same party lines word-for-word these days in whatever way the talking heads on TV tell them to. So let’s deconstruct their argument.
So as we know, Antonin Scalia finally kicked the bucket to the thunderous applause of progressives everywhere earlier this year because he was easily the most consistently conservative member of the Court. Scalia himself had replaced the Associate Justice seat of conservative William Rehnquist, who was on the bench at the time of Roe vs. Wade, and voted in dissent. So we’ve got a continuous lineage of idiocy coming from that seat; losing it to another conservative nominee is no lost ground, it just leaves us where we were before Scalia’s body hit the floor.
The other members of the court seem to be in relatively good health right now, but let’s take a look at them because you never know what might happen.
There are two justices currently in their 80s: moderate swing voter Anthony Kennedy and notorious liberal firebrand and cancer survivor Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Scalia plus either of these two may need to be replaced during the next presidential term, or maybe, possibly both of them.
So there could possibly be up to three justices appointed in the next presidential term. You could argue that maybe there could be some catastrophic fluke that could cause all three justices plus an additional one to need replacing for whatever reason, but guess what? You don’t get to apply that reasoning to the next four years, but not the subsequent years. There’s no more reason to say we’ll see four replacements in the next four-year term than there is to say we’ll see four replacements in the following four-year term, or eight replacements in a following eight-year term (should Trump get replaced by a decent candidate worthy of reelection, as we all hope). It’s entirely possible that only Scalia gets replaced next term, and the term after that is a deluge of replacements, but Hillary supporters conveniently avoid addressing this possibility.
So worst-case scenario, the most SCOTUS justice replacements we might reasonably expect to see in the next presidential term is three. But check this out: Obama has already appointed two liberal justices, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both of whom replaced Republican-appointed justices.
So in case you’re having trouble following, three conservative justices in our worst-case scenario sets us back to the Supreme Court makeup we had immediately prior to Obama’s appointments.
Remember when Roe vs. Wade got overturned during George W. Bush’s presidency? Me neither. Remember when it came close, though? Me neither. America did not become the only major country to outlaw abortion then, and it’s silly to think that it would now under a similar Court makeup.
All of this assumes Donald Trump actually cares about abortion in the first place, which is beginning to look less and less likely. He was publicly pro-choice until he started gunning for the presidency, and in a recent speech at a conference for the Family Research Council, a political Christian organization, he made not one single mention of abortion.
And here’s another kicker: two-thirds of all Senate seats will be up for grabs by 2018. This means that unless President Trump can somehow go two more years without significantly upsetting the American public on both the left and the right (and remember this is Donald Trump we’re talking about), he will very likely be looking at a blue Senate in the latter half of his term.
What would this mean? Well, look at what the reverse means now: Republicans don’t want Obama appointing a third Supreme Court justice during his term, so they’re using their Senate majority to block Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in the hopes of stalling until a Republican president is in the White House. And if you don’t think the Democrats will repay them the favor as soon as they’re given the opportunity, you haven’t been following politics closely.
This would mean Trump only having three years to nominate SCOTUS justices, not four, since a Democratic majority Senate could just stall away any nominations in that final year. But sure, Trump’s going to cancel the first amendment and replace the stars and stripes with a swastika in those three years.
Furthermore, we should be clear that Democratic presidents historically don’t nominate progressive justices, they nominate corporatist justices. The corruption conviction of former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell was just unanimously overturned by the SCOTUS in June, giving an official green light for the bribery of public officials. Stephen Breyer, appointed by Hillary’s husband, was one of the three justices found 90 percent of the time to have ruled in favor of companies they owned stock in rather than recusing themselves from the case. Given Hillary’s already evident penchant for appointing powerful corporate lobbyists to campaign positions, it’s unreasonable to expect this pattern to change under her presidency.
So now that we’ve refuted the baseless fearmongering hyperbole coming from Hillary supporters, I’d like to dial it back a bit and make it clear that I’m not saying the Supreme Court doesn’t have a major impact on American civil rights, of course it does. If it weren’t so urgently important that the immoral election-rigging of the Democratic party not be countenanced by the progressive vote, I’d say go ahead and do whatever it takes to keep all SCOTUS decisions out of the draconian claws of the Republicans. But supporting Hillary Clinton this election will guarantee more rigged primaries, more forcefully-installed neoliberal stooges, more war, more corporate cronyism, and an overall movement to the right for American politics in the long term. That is far, far more dangerous than Donald Trump appointing a couple of conservative justices in one term.
There are always going to be elderly Supreme Court justices. The neoliberal think tank will always try to bully us into submission every single presidential election by pointing at the oldest member and saying “Look, he’s gonna drop dead any minute! Do you really want to be responsible for millions of back room coat hanger abortions? Vote for our current Wall Street war hawk!” They’ll do it every time, I promise you. Every. Single. Time. And they’ll use it to get away with outright tyranny if we let them. They’re trying to do it right now.
Don’t let them terrify you into falling in line please, dear reader. Supporting the Democratic party this year, when even their own lawyers are admitting that they violated their charter and rigged the primaries, will have far-reaching long-term consequences for the progressive awakening far exceeding anything a couple of Supreme Court seats could possibly have. A temporary setback in the SCOTUS makeup is far less dangerous than the death of democracy in America. If we send the Democrats an unequivocal message this year that they cannot spit in progressives’ faces and still expect our vote, we’ll force the party into evolve-or-die time, where they either stop rigging elections and honor the progressive vote, or get replaced by a party that will.
Don’t be afraid. Keep pushing to the light. You are right. They are wrong. We’ve got this.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]