Big political news often has a major impact directly on our families. This one could have one of the biggest of all.
By Ola Szczesna, Policy Director, Massachusetts Parents United
The news of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement sent red flags to all of us, knowing this would mean the appointment of a new justice by President Trump. I, being an impulsive Googl-er, instantly searched the political leanings of the current Supreme Court justices, and what it could mean when Trump appoints a hard conservative to the bench.
Justice Kennedy has been known as a swing vote, though his recent track record hasn’t meant much to Democrats on issues like labor. Although the judicial system is meant to be fair and impartial and supposedly independent of political ideology and public opinion, we know that rulings are based on the interpretation of the Constitution. My interpretation can be different than yours, and this especially rings true if our values and beliefs are fundamentally different. As usual in politics, party affiliation matters a great deal.
The current political leanings look something like the chart below. Although different sources may have different analyses, this is the general consensus from 2017 when Trump’s previous Supreme Court pick, Neil Gorsuch, was sworn in just over a year ago:
It looks like a generally balanced Supreme Court will now tip to the right. Trump has chosen Brett Kavanaugh as his Supreme Court nominee. Kavanaugh is 53 years old and currently serves as a Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy.
As you would imagine there has been a lot of attention brought to several issues regarding a new Supreme Court appointment, including whether a conservative on the bench will uphold Roe v. Wade, what will happen to LGBT rights, and if the Affordable Care Act will continue to stand. Trump has vowed to get rid of abortion rights by appointing justices to the Court who would reverse Roe v. Wade, signaling his dismay with settled law and deference to his conservative base.
When Kavanaugh was questioned on his personal opinion on Roe v. Wade in 2006 during a D.C. Circuit Court nomination hearing, he stated that “If confirmed to the DC Circuit, I would follow Roe v. Wade faithfully and fully. That would be binding precedent of the court. It has been decided by the Supreme Court.” Although he has not stated any opposition to Roe v. Wade, this does not mean that he would necessarily follow the Supreme Court decision while in a seat with the power to vote to change the landmark decision.
What is even more mind blowing and has not received enough media attention is that in a 2009 Minnesota Law Review, Kavanaugh wrote that presidents should be immune from civil and criminal investigations while they are in office because they are too distracting, and that Congress should also exempt the president from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel.
Interesting – as Trump is currently facing an investigation from Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Russia’s role in the 2016 election and a lawsuit from porn star Stormy Daniels. The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, stated that Kavanaugh “seems exactly like the kind of man President Trump would want on the Supreme Court if legal issues from the Mueller probe arise.”
The Senate will either confirm or deny Trump’s pick within the next several months. Currently, Republicans have a 51-49 majority, but it is unlikely that Republican Senator John McCain will return to vote as he has been absent during his battle with cancer. This means that Republicans would need every member of their party to vote in favor of Trump’s nominee to get 50 votes to confirm Kavanaugh, not needing any Democratic support. But, Republican Senator Susan Collins may be a key swing vote, as she has previously said she will not support a nominee who would oppose Roe v. Wade and she will “conduct a careful, thorough vetting” for Trump’s new Supreme Court nominee.
Whether Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed or not, the bad news is that Trump will just be able to go down the list to the next best conservative white male to fill the seat, like he did with his previous choice of Neil Gorsuch. The reality is that of the 113 Supreme Court Justices who have served on the bench, every one of them has been a white male except for six justices.
Take a deep breath here.
This isn’t okay.
Our nation’s history is complicated, but in 2018 this isn’t just about Democrat versus Republican, blue versus red. At MPU, we work with mothers, families of color, parents of children with special needs. We need diversity at the table because we are a diverse nation. We cannot allow for the white and privileged to make the decisions for everyone. Let this time in our society drive us to continue pushing for change. To make sure we give voice to the minority and support one another. Let us be a nation where everyone is represented when it comes to the decisions that affect all of us.
We can do better than this, keep making noise and keep going.