We knew on election night that this was coming, but it doesn’t make this any less of a bitter pill to swallow. It’s simultaneously the worst and most foreseeable consequence of the Trump presidency. Most of this administration’s other mischief is fixable if a friendly president replaces this one, but the harm that’s going to be done by a hard-right Supreme Court will last for decades.
It’s not as if we weren’t already heading down this path. Anthony Kennedy was hardly a beacon of progressivism – especially in his last term, he was responsible for a string of awful rulings upholding the travel ban, decimating public-sector unions, permitting red-state voter purges, and lifting regulations on fake abortion clinics. But he had a soft spot for LGBT rights and he would, very rarely, rule against an anti-choice law that even he found to be a bit much. He was just unpredictable enough that there was occasional reason for hope.
With a new, hard-right majority on the court, that’s a thing of the past. The next twenty or thirty years are going to be a dark time for separation of church and state, for racial justice, for environmental protection, and for labor rights and business regulation. It’s highly likely that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, or whittled down so much as to become meaningless, and abortion will become illegal in most of America. It may not be too early to think about creating a new Underground Railroad for women.
Even Kennedy’s most famous liberal ruling, marriage equality, may be at risk. I don’t think the court would countenance a challenge so soon after issuing it, but if there’s a lesson to take from the last few years, it’s that conservatives are willing to break every norm and precedent in pursuit of power. They’ve been fighting for blood, and liberals and progressives haven’t responded in kind. Too many of us are still playing the old suckers’ game of politeness and respect, such as when the Democrats inexplicably acceded to Republicans’ absolute refusal to let Obama fill Scalia’s seat, rather than make it the massive campaign issue it should have been.
Just to be clear about this, I’m not only blaming conservatives. I’m blaming everyone who thought they were too good or too pure to vote for Hillary Clinton. Any liberal who withheld their vote to teach the Democrats a lesson for not nominating their preferred candidate has shot themselves in the foot in the most spectacular way. This also goes for people who said it was Clinton’s fault she wasn’t sufficiently “exciting” to persuade them to care about their own interests.
I’m not worried for myself or my family. We’re privileged enough that we’re going to be just fine. But I’m deeply concerned about the path my country is heading down, and the millions of other people, mostly poor and downtrodden, who are going to suffer. Compared to what could have been, it feels like we were standing on the cusp of a new progressive era only to have it snatched away.