It’s a familiar story: A candidate for president loses the popular vote, is still selected by the Electoral College, and nominates judges to federal courts who reverse groundbreaking civil-rights laws.
Trump and Kavanaugh aren’t the first.
It happened before, starting in 1876. By the end of 1877, Rutherford B. Hayes–appointed federal judges were presiding over the end of Reconstruction. Jim Crow segregation came back in full force, the Klan rose again with no legal challenge, and an era of lynching exploded across the South and beyond.
More than 140 years later, the potential confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court threatens a very similar reversal of so many victories: in the struggles for women’s rights, against racism, to limit the power of corporations, for protection of the environment, against torture and mass surveillance, for the rights of immigrants and refugees, and so much more.
The confirmation process has revealed to the whole country, indeed the whole world, the reality of sexual abuse and how it impacts—or fails to impact—access to the highest levels of US power. A wide range of movements are in the streets, in the Senate, and in federal buildings across the country saying no more to the pervasive legacy of attacks on women going unreported and their attackers remaining unaccountable.
These are the same movements already working every day to challenge the three intersecting evils that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us all about: racism, poverty, and militarism. Many of those movements were shaped by the end of Reconstruction generations ago, and brought into the 21st century by adding climate-destruction and gender lenses.
In the decades since Dr. King, movements have continued to rise to challenge those evils and fight for the other world, the different world, that we know is possible. And often—not always, certainly, not equally, but often—it’s been the courts that have provided some modicum of protection to those most impacted by and those fighting against those evils.
Judge Kavanaugh’s rulings on the DC circuit court show just how threatening a Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh would be to this lifeline, to all those fighting for a better world. Such an appointment would be an assault on the Constitution, an assault on the Court, and an assault on justice.
It’s not a guess, or a supposition—he’s proved it in his rulings during his dozen years as a DC circuit-court judge. He’s fine with torture and mass surveillance; cares more about corporations than about workers or the environment; champions untrammeled gun “rights”; and thinks that presidential power trumps the authority of Congress, the courts, or anyone else.