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.
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