Want to Help Block Trump’s SCOTUS Nominee? Voting Alone Isn’t Enough.

Avoiding conservative dominion over the Supreme Court will require a mass movement of people in the streets as well as an electoral rebuke of Trump.

Michael Arria

(Photo by ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

After the death of Supreme Court Jus­tice Ruth Bad­er Gins­burg last week, Democ­rats shat­tered fundrais­ing records by rak­ing in $90 mil­lion over a 28-hour peri­od. While Demo­c­ra­t­ic lead­er­ship has encour­aged the pub­lic to vote in response, some pro­gres­sive activists have called on the par­ty to threat­en major changes if they take pow­er next year, includ­ing expand­ing the size of the Court. But in the mean­time, orga­niz­ers see oth­er options to pro­tect the seat. 

It’s very pos­si­ble that, as a result of Ginsburg’s pass­ing, the GOP will end up hav­ing nom­i­nat­ed six of the nine Supreme Court jus­tices, despite the fact that the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­date has won the pop­u­lar vote just once over the last 32 years. It’s a dire sit­u­a­tion, but many aren’t wait­ing until Novem­ber to act.

One group that imme­di­ate­ly sprung into action after Ginsburg’s death was the Sun­rise Move­ment. The youth-led cli­mate orga­ni­za­tion showed up out­side the homes of Sens. Lind­sey Gra­ham (R‑SC) and Thom Tillis (R‑NC) demand­ing they delay a vote on Trump’s immi­nent SCO­TUS nom­i­na­tion. We have one mis­sion right now: to delay delay delay,” the group said in a statement. 

McConnell has made his move. He already put out a state­ment say­ing that he’ll bring a Trump nom­i­nee to vote in the Sen­ate. But his col­leagues are already start­ing to break from him, and if we can pres­sure each Sen­a­tor to up hold the prece­dent that McConnell him­self set — to not appoint a Supreme Court nom­i­nee in a Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion year — we have a good chance at delay­ing this vote until we elect Joe Biden and keep Trump from appoint­ing anoth­er nominee.”

Groups like Sun­rise know it’s an uphill bat­tle, but there’s recent prece­dent for direct action throw­ing a wrench into Repub­li­can plans. After Trump announced his Mus­lim Ban” in 2017, thou­sands of peo­ple across the coun­try flocked to the nation’s air­ports to protest the move, shut­ting down ter­mi­nals and gain­ing nation­al atten­tion. In response to the actions, a fed­er­al judge in Brook­lyn ruled in favor of refugees through­out the coun­try and blocked a por­tion of Trump’s deci­sion. Near­ly 50 fed­er­al cas­es end­ed up being filed against the ban over the peri­od of just a few days.

In 2017, protests also broke out in response to the Lind­sey Gra­ham-Bill Cas­sidy health­care bill — GOP leg­is­la­tion designed to repeal the Afford­able Care Act. The bill nev­er made it to the Sen­ate floor, after Repub­li­cans real­ized they didn’t have the votes to fol­low through with their long­stand­ing cam­paign promise of end­ing Oba­macare.”

In recent days, much of the lib­er­al ire has been focused on Sen­ate Major­i­ty Leader Mitch McConnell, who effec­tive­ly blocked Pres­i­dent Obama’s Supreme Court nom­i­nee Mer­rick Gar­land in 2016, argu­ing that it was improp­er to ele­vate a SCO­TUS jus­tice in an elec­tion year, but was push­ing for a vote on Trump’s selec­tion with­in hours of Ginsburg’s death. Last week, dona­tions poured into the cam­paign of Amy McGrath, McConnell’s Demo­c­ra­t­ic challenger.

The prob­lem with such a strat­e­gy is that McGrath’s chal­lenges cer­tain­ly seem to tran­scend fund­ing. The campaign’s last finance report shows that she’s raised over $10 mil­lion more than McConnell, but remains down in the polls by dou­ble dig­its. McGrath (who has been described as a pro-Trump Demo­c­rat”) has seem­ing­ly had a dif­fi­cult time dis­tin­guish­ing her­self from the incumbent.

McGrath lacks any vision for how we can make people’s mate­r­i­al con­di­tions bet­ter in one of the nation’s poor­est states,” Ken­tucky res­i­dent and The Trill­bil­ly Worker’s Par­ty co-host recent­ly told The Real News. It’s just pay­ing lip ser­vice to more tepid, incre­men­tal­ist reforms that excite nobody. So all they have to run on is I’m not Mitch McConnell’ and that’s not going to get it done.”

Ken­tuck­ians For The Com­mon­wealth (KFTC) is a local grass­roots group fight­ing to build pro­gres­sive pow­er in the state. After Ginsburg’s death, the orga­ni­za­tion released a state­ment call­ing on res­i­dents to vote, reg­is­ter oth­ers to vote, and speak out pub­licly about the vacant seat. How­ev­er, they also called for direct action. KFTC encour­ages our mem­bers to sup­port pow­er­ful social move­ments by lead­ing and join­ing local non­vi­o­lent actions, includ­ing car car­a­vans, vig­ils, online forums, and oth­er forms of pub­lic protest,” it reads.

Cas­sia Her­ron is a native of Rich­mond, Ken­tucky and Chair­per­son of the group. She told In These Times that, while vot­ing is espe­cial­ly impor­tant this year, it’s imper­a­tive that peo­ple work towards build­ing resis­tance that out­lasts the elec­tion and can hold Repub­li­cans account­able beyond November. 

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, can­di­dates and the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty take up a lot of space,” Her­ron said. Beyond the bal­lot box, there are orga­ni­za­tions and every­day folks who are find­ing ways to engage peo­ple through­out the year, at school boards, on city coun­cils. Can­di­dates come and go and we cer­tain­ly haven’t seen enough vot­er engage­ment in states like Ken­tucky, but peo­ple have to ask them­selves, Who is sup­port­ing reg­u­lar folks in my com­mu­ni­ty?’ Is it a can­di­date or is it the mom’s group down the street?”

As recent polit­i­cal fights have shown, the bat­tle to block the next SCO­TUS nom­i­nee, expand the Court, and roll back the wider right-wing takeover of gov­ern­ment can­not be left up to Democ­rats alone. Instead, orga­niz­ers are show­ing that stop­ping Trump will require both vot­ing and tak­ing action in the streets.

As a 501©3 non­prof­it pub­li­ca­tion, In These Times does not oppose or endorse can­di­dates for polit­i­cal office. 

Michael Arria is the U.S. cor­re­spon­dent for Mon­doweiss. Fol­low him on Twit­ter: @michaelarria.
Limited Time:

SUBSCRIBE TO IN THESE TIMES MAGAZINE FOR JUST $1 A MONTH