The Courts Won’t Save Us

Today’s High Court decision upholding the President’s anti-Muslim travel ban should focus us on a key, important fact: the federal judiciary is now heavily stocked not just with Republican appointees but conservative ideologues. This isn’t simply a commentary on this decision. It does include major exceptions – the Court’s jurisprudence on marriage, for instance. But we simply cannot rely on the Court’s as presently constituted to make rulings which are in line with the actual constitution or our national traditions. This is in significant part because of the corrupt appointment of Justice Gorsuch. But there’s no undoing that. We are on the cusp of what will likely be an even more dramatic example of rightwing judicial activism against labor rights. On issue after issue, change and justice or simple preservation will have to rely on building robust political movements. This is a point I plan and hope to see as a guiding premise of our upcoming voting rights and democracy series.

It’s not either/or. I spoke to a friend a few days ago who said flatly, the courts are a lost cause. It’s all about politics and elections. That’s wrong. It’s not a pure either/or. Courts and litigation remain still absolutely critical. We’ve seen that even in the last year. Critically important. But on many issues, in this period of testing, saving the country will come from robust political movements, ones which will have to succeed in the face of daunting challenges to the right to vote in order to eventually redeem those rights.

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