Like a lot of progressives, I was upset to hear about Anthony Kennedy’s looming retirement. He was a conservative justice, but he was a conservative justice with principles. And, sometimes, those principles led him to rule in favor of people who were oppressed and suffering. Those principles made him a swing vote, and his vote on the Supreme Court made a difference.
Now, he has ceded his legacy to a reactionary Republican Party and the people who lead it. And I have no doubt that over the next generation the Court will chip away at reproductive choice, LGBTQ rights, voting access, and dozens of other things that aren’t just items on the progressive agenda, but fundamental parts of a small-d democratic legal order. With this retirement, the Republican Party and the pseudo-conservatives who run it will have a huge influence on the direction of this country for a generation or more.
And, of course, if a question about whether a sitting president can be indicted comes before the Court, Donald Trump will have effectively chosen his own judge.
A lot of my friends and colleagues are treating this as one more crisis in an increasingly long list of crises. That’s exhausting. Those of us who are progressive are running ourselves ragged trying to respond to event after event. And I think that might be the wrong response to this and, frankly, to the almost countless violations of democratic norms and subversions of democratic values that we’ve witnessed over the last year-and-a-half-ish.
Frankly, this isn’t a crisis. I’m not saying that because it’s acceptable. I’m saying it because it’s mundane.
Reproductive choice has been under assault since the day Roe v. Wade was decided. LGBTQ rights have been attacked the moment that each one was gained. People have fought to restrict voting since the first minority voter arrived at a polling place. And there are countless other examples of the attempt to deny rights to those who should have them and to roll them back once they are recognized.
The fact is that for a large number of Americans, the ‘crisis’ that I and my friends and colleagues are hyperventilating over today isn’t a crisis at all. It’s the way that the world is.The fact is that for a large number of Americans, the 'crisis' that I and my friends and colleagues are hyperventilating over today isn't a crisis at all. It's the way that the world is. Click To Tweet
And we need to respond appropriately. We are not in a crisis that came from nowhere and can be solved over the course of a few protests or a few elections or a few court cases. We are living in the result of decades of meticulous work by the far right. And we need to respond in kind. We need to make the work of justice and mercy a part of our daily lives — yes, a part of our daily lives, not the whole thing — and recognize that this is not a sprint, but a relay. We will do some of the work. And our children and grandchildren will do some of the work. And untold generations will do some of the work.
Because the fact is that those small-d democratic norms and values are fragile things. Unless we guard them vigilantly, people who are entranced by wealth and power will break them.Small-d democratic norms and values are fragile things. Unless we guard them vigilantly, people who are entranced by wealth and power will break them. Click To Tweet
As the saying goes, “Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”