The US has always prided itself on being a nation of laws. The final recourse in cases that are divisive and politically charged would be a Supreme Court that is a fair arbiter. Courts must not be simple extensions of the political branches of the Government, averred Chief Justice Roberts in 2018. Some of the Supreme Court’s recent landmark decisions support this contention. Paramount among those are ones on abortion, gay and transgender rights, the fate of young immigrants known as Dreamers, and access to President Trump’s financial records.
With a majority conservative bench at the Supreme Court, the four liberal judges need support from the Republican-appointed members to succeed. And that is what happened in these cases. Trump appointee, Neil M. Gorsuch, and a George W. Bush appointee, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., each joined with liberal justices to defeat Trump administration priorities in these issues. Roberts has periodically sided with liberals on the court, including a case that preserved key parts of the Affordable Care Act and a case that rejected the Trump administration’s desire for a citizenship question in the 2020 US Census.
A survey taken by researchers at Harvard, Stanford, and the University of Texas finds that the public generally supports the politically liberal position in all of those cases. Thus, these Supreme Court decisions reflect the will of the majority. Despite this, advocates and lawmakers need to remain skeptical. The conservative justices have proved time and again that they will continue to refuse to respect women’s and minorities’ rights. We need proactive legislative policies to advance health care access and equality for all.
The Chief Justice, for instance, made it clear in writing the opinion that he favors striking down the Louisiana law solely because of the precedent the court set four years ago in Texas, not out of respect for a person’s right to an abortion. To reinforce this point, in Trump v. Pennsylvania, the court sided with the Trump administration, by allowing virtually any employer or university to deny women birth control coverage based on the entity’s—not the woman’s—moral or religious beliefs, thereby threatening the health and financial security of women. Additionally, the recent SCOTUS decision depriving felons from voting is the fourth time that the court has refused to intervene to protect voting rights, despite an overwhelming public outcry.
The need to flip the Senate blue and to have a Democrat in the White House becomes more urgent. Chronic and mounting economic inequality, food insecurity, lack of access to healthcare, voter suppression, police brutality, and access to equal justice for the average person hang in the balance. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s health is failing, and Mitch McConnell is resolved to stack the courts with conservative judges. The future of this country will be decided on November 3 this year and we need to keep our eye on the ball. We cannot miss! It is the COURTS, stupid.
President, Woman’s National Democratic Club
August 3, 2020