This is a terrible, shameful day in America. Thousands of women are going to die because of the transparently political decision of an unelected tribunal of extremists who were selected for this express purpose by a cabal of reactionary psychopaths who have conspired and plotted for decades to achieve exactly this result. In addition to the many deaths that will follow, many more will be hurt, thrown in prison, and otherwise subjugated. And the specter of being a second-class citizen will haunt everyone with a uterus as long as this new status quo is allowed to endure. Worse still, this will likely not be the end of the backsliding of rights, as the most extreme elements of the court — in particular a man credibly accused of sexual assault whose wife may well have aided and abetted a treasonous conspiracy to overthrow an election — signal they are open to revisiting almost every other fundamental right we’ve grown to enjoy in the post-Civil Rights era, from equal rights to gay marriage and well beyond. It’s not worth sugar-coating anything. The outlook is grim, the horizon dark.
We should take time to mourn, of course. So stop here if you’re in that place right now. But my mind typically wants to race ahead, and so I’ll continue to what’s next.
The only, I hesitate to call it particularly bright, spot, is that this decision, and increasingly the court itself, are deeply, deeply unpopular, its most extreme members shielded from this reality by the fact that they are old, warped, and worn in both body and intellect, well on their way to graves on which I someday hope to dance. It is cold comfort, I know, that this insidious conspiracy is now reaching its pinnacle, but we are fortunate, in a sense, to be living through its apotheosis rather than its nadir, because we will have the last laugh. And it may come sooner than we think.
If we are good, and a bit lucky, there remain credible threats to check the court’s egregious overreaches that are well within our grasp. In all the deserved dunking on Democrats for not doing enough to foresee and forestall the ascendance of the conservative judicial movement, it’s easy to miss just how far this court’s radicalism has pushed the stodgy old centrist party. A legislative right to abortion, recently unthinkable in either party (remember the Stupak amendment?), is now two senate votes away, thanks to the commitment of 48 Democratic Senators and every single likely nominee to eliminate the anti-Democratic filibuster at the heart of the institution’s dysfunction.
Eliminating the filibuster also paves the way for meaningful and plausible court reforms that do not require a constitutional amendment or supermajority, like changing the composition of the court and decreasing its jurisdiction. That these are becoming mainstream Democratic talking points is itself progress.
As Kevin Elliott argues on Twitter, pursuing these options must now become our mission, because even credible threats of passage may be enough to impact the court’s decision-making. Indeed, Roberts in his concurring opinion on Dobbs, Kavanaugh’s on the gun rights case, and Gorsuch’s surprising votes on justice reform may already be examples of this effect. As we take to the streets and call our representatives today and in the coming weeks, we should demand not just abortion rights, but filibuster reform and specific court reforms, too. Court expansion and jurisdiction limitation should become daily midterm talking points as solutions for the issue of this unpopular court’s extremism. We should be able to tell our disaffected friends that there are steps we can take now to reverse trend, and be able to point to candidates promising to take those steps as evidence.
As the last 4 years of activism has demonstrated, the Democratic party can be moved to take needed positions on critical issues. The failure to eliminate the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation was not, as many have argued, lip service that proved the Democrats’ weakness. Going from rarely discussed to 48 senators, many openly skeptical of process reforms, voting in favor of removing the filibuster in two years’ time was in its way an enormous achievement. If we can understand it as momentum, rather than inertia, we can build a movement that gets us on the path to justice.
It will not be enough to solve all of our problems, to be sure. We don’t need new parties — we need new economic and social systems, and indeed a new politics entirely. But today, I am of the mind that we must use all our power to resist. And there is credible power to be wielded within the status quo if we can find a way to wield it.
See you out there.