By Gara LaMarche, Democracy Alliance President
The Supreme Court ended its term this morning, and that’s a relief, because the damage it has done in the last few days alone has dealt a series of harsh blows to our basic rights. This is what Mitch McConnell’s outrageous and unprecedented abuse of power and trashing of democratic norms—refusing even to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in 2016—was all about, as Justice Neil Gorsuch provided the swing vote for the slim majority in these cases.
In Janus v. AFSCME, as long expected, the court gutted the rights of public sector unions to collect “fair share” fees to cover the costs of representation. This ruling is a significant prize in the aggressive, decades-long campaign by corporate interests to weaken and eliminate unions, both because workers acting together have been a powerful force for fair wages and working conditions, and because they have been a significant source of progressive movement and electoral power.
Make no mistake about it, the Supreme Court’s action gives the green light to the right’s key goal of rigging the system to protect and increase corporate power. AFSCME, along with eight other labor unions, is a key DA Partner and a leading force for progressive values and policies. The DA stands in solidarity with them and will work to counter the impact of this benighted decision in whatever way we can.
In Trump v. Hawaii, the court overlooked a sordid litany of racist and anti-Muslim remarks by Donald Trump to uphold the third version of his “Muslim ban.” As Justice Sonia Sotomayor read from the bench in her powerful dissent, just as in its discredited and bigoted wartime internment of Japanese-Americans, “the government invoked an ill-defined national security threat to justify an exclusionary policy of sweeping proportion … rooted in dangerous stereotypes about … a particular group’s supposed inability to assimilate and desire to harm the United States.”
In National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra, the Supreme Court weaponized the First Amendment as a shield for the deceptive practices of “crisis pregnancy centers.” As NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue wrote in an op-ed for CNN.com, these bogus enterprises “prey on women at vulnerable times in their lives by lying about their options and using outright falsehoods to push political agendas… tell[ing] patients abortion is linked with health risks such as infertility, breast cancer and birth defects in future pregnancies, even though the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has debunked these medical inaccuracies. Some perform invasive, vaginal ultrasounds without a medical purpose, solely to manipulate women.”
What do we do now? We redouble the fight in Congress, the states, and the streets to protect religious and racial minorities, workers, and women’s health. But these rulings are bracing and disturbing reminders of two things to keep in mind as we all work to check the Trump administration and its Congressional and state government enablers at the polls in November.
First, we cannot rely at this moment on institutions to save us—certainly not a court that the Republican right has rigged to deliver what it wants. Second, control of the court is THE central issue for the right—it’s why over 80 percent of evangelicals still support Trump despite his obvious absence of personal and political morality and decency. They never lose sight of this at election time, while progressives are too often diffused across a range of issues. It’s time for us to heed these lessons as we prepare for elections now, and two years from now, that will determine the shape of our democracy for decades to come.