Hillary Clinton warned us.
When she applied for the Democratic nomination for the presidency four years ago, she turned in the strongest speech of their campaignon the subject of the United States Supreme Court. The address she presented was not a reflexive response to the day’s news. It wasn’t a series of topics of conversation repackaged to fill a passing message cycle. It was an important political address – comprehensive in scope and character, ambitious in its aims, but differentiated in its recognition of the challenges facing its party and country. I was in the room when Clinton made her remarks, and as someone who often criticized the former Secretary of State, I wrote, “Clinton’s speech on the importance of filling the Supreme Court and the values and ideals that guide the judiciary Nominations should have been a deep and detailed discussion of a fundamental responsibility of the President. ”
However, I also noticed that the speech was largely neglected, saying, “In this absurd campaign season, the media devoted hours to arguments about which Republican candidate insulted which woman, about violent and irresponsible campaign workers, about which soap opera scenario Remember , Thoughtful discussions about topics get little attention. And deep and detailed discussions on topics are covered even less. “To the extent that the speech was dealt with at all, it was referring to what the Democratic contender had to say about the Republican nomination race. especially Clinton’s observation“What the Republicans have sown with their extremist tactics, they are now reaping with Donald Trump’s candidacy.”
This neglect of the content of Clinton’s remarks on the courts was troubling at the time and remains troubling as it presents the challenge of making judicial selection a campaign issue. We face this challenge again, amid yet another campaign and an even more fierce battle for the future of judgment. President Trump’s nomination by Judge Amy Coney Barrett Ruth Bader Ginsburg has brought this country to a critical point where a Republican president and his Senate allies are rushing to reconfigure the Supreme Court before voters deprive them of their power to do so. However, many media outlets are already busy with the next story: Trump’s tax problems, Trump’s outrageous tweeting, Trump’s recent outbreak.
We didn’t take a break, as Clinton asked us in 2016, to reflect on the crisis looming over the courts. And I’m afraid we won’t stop enough this fall. Against this background, I repeated Clinton’s speech, which is as outstanding today as it was then She delivered it on March 28, 2016.
Clinton spoke on the day as a graduate of Yale Law School, author of academic articles on children and law, former law school instructor and former chairman of the Legal Services Corporation with a long history of studying legal issues and the jurisprudential judicial nomination process. She recognized that “the court shapes virtually every aspect of life in the United States – from whether you can marry the person you love, to medical care, to whether your classmates carry guns on campus can.” And that: “If we are serious about fighting for progressive ends, we have to concentrate on the court: who is sitting on it, how we choose them and how much we let politics – the partisan politics – dominate this process.”
What stood out was the way Clinton put the 2016 debate on judicial officer nominations in a historical, political, and legal context. She gave a convincing answer to the question of how and when the position at the Supreme Court created on February 13, 2016, should be filled. The death – before a party had nominated its presidential candidates and long before the fall campaign – of Justice Antonin Scalia. But she also rightly remarked that “this fight is bigger than just an empty space on the square”.
“By election day, two judges will be over 80 years old – based on the court’s average retirement age. The next president might end up appointing multiple judges, ”she said after deliberately referring to Judges Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy. “That means whoever votes for America this fall will help determine the future of the court for decades to come.”
Clinton then worked his way – in a 2020 step that Democratic candidates Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would well emulate – through the 2016 file of the Court of Justice:
• “The Court examines how public sector unions collect the fees they use for their work. The economic security of millions of teachers, social workers and first responders is at stake. Wisconsin people know this all too well because your governor has repeatedly attacked and bullied public sector unions and working families paid the price. I think this is wrong and it should stop. ”
• “The court is reviewing a Texas law that will impose unnecessary and expensive requirements on doctors performing abortions. If this law is allowed to apply, there are only about 10 health centers where women can obtain safe, legal abortions in the entire state of Texas, a state of approximately 5.4 million women of childbearing age. This effectively ends the legal right to vote for millions of women. ”
• “The Court is also examining whether Texas should exclude non-voters when issuing its voting card. That would leave out legitimate residents, people with convicted crimes, and children, among others. The fair representation of all in our society – including 75 million children – depends on balance. ”
• “In addition, the Court is reviewing President Obama’s positive and executive actions on immigration to halt the deportation of DREAMers and undocumented parents of citizens and lawful residents. It also got the president’s clean power plan under control. America can either limit the amount of carbon we produce or we cannot. And if we cannot, our ability to work with other nations to address the climate change threat under the Paris Agreement will be severely limited. ”
“In short,” said Clinton, “the Supreme Court could destroy the pillars of the progressive movement in a single term.” And as someone who has worked on each of these topics for decades, I see this as a moment when you can do something or break something. If you’re interested in the fairness of elections, the future of unions, racial differences in universities, women’s rights, or the future of our planet, then your concern should be who wins the presidency and appoints the next Supreme Court justices. ”
Ultimately, Clinton took on the court’s biggest failure – addressing an issue that her Democratic nomination rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, had made central to his campaign.
Describing “the dangerous turn the Court has taken in recent years to protect the rights of businesses versus people,” she sentenced 2010 Citizens United Decision broke off the barriers to corporate influence in elections.
“If the dish doesn’t tip over Citizens UnitedI will fight for a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of money in elections, ”she said. “It is dangerous for our country and toxic for our politics.”
But to her credit, Clinton didn’t stop there Citizens United. “This court has voted on a case-by-case basis on the business side – against the interests of workers, unions, consumers and the public -” said Clinton, who stated that the court has “made it harder for consumers to unite” sue a company even if it is suffering from corporate behavior together. Two million Comcast subscribers in Philadelphia were told that they would each have to hire a lawyer if they wanted to sue at fairer prices. One and a half million women who worked at Walmart had to hire a lawyer each time they wanted to sue for gender discrimination. This is a burden that the vast majority of people cannot afford. ”
Clinton concluded by arguing the arguments that Democrats always bring to the Supreme Court in a political perspective – and in a language that should have resonated far beyond the legal community.
“The court used – at least in the 20th century – to protect the little guy from the rich and powerful. More and more it does the opposite – to protect the rich and powerful from the little guy, ”said the former foreign minister. “If I am fortunate enough to be president, I will appoint judges to ensure that the scales of justice are not cast by individuals on corporations and special interests.” Who will protect the constitutional principles of freedom and equality for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or political point of view? Who protects a woman’s right to vote and not the billionaires’ right to vote? and who will see the Constitution as a blueprint for progress, not an obstacle to it? ”
What Hillary Clinton said in 2016 was correct. It’s even more now.
Democrats should have a deep and determined discussion of the Supreme Court, the Constitution and the future of the rule of law, which is central to the 2020 campaign – so central that it cannot be neglected by either the media or voters.