The Company Kavanaugh Keeps

This week we learned the name of the person who will, in all likelihood, fill the vacated Kennedy seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. At this point, President Trump’s nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, isn’t a 100% certainty to be confirmed by the Senate. But unless he commits some rhetorical blunder as he bobs and weaves through questions that might reveal a personal bias too rigid to be acceptable to the Senators, Kavanaugh is going to be confirmed.

So what should we expect from the future Justice Kavanaugh? He is described by virtually all information sources as a “conservative” judge. And for the majority of Americans who are even paying attention to this historic event, that word, “conservative,” will no doubt be all the description they need to be either for or against his appointment.

It’s a label that handily categorizes a large swath of Americans who, for a variety of reasons (some of them naively self-destructive), are against or at least very wary of any positions supported by Democratic office holders or candidates. Right wing media has spent years making sure of that.

To be accurate, being labeled a “conservative justice” should, in fact, carry a different meaning from “conservative politician.” However, The New York Times described Judge Brett Kavanaugh as “a fixture in conservative politics.”

His judicial record, like many past nominees, gives little direct indication of how he will vote on key issues as a Supreme Court Justice. But here is what we do know. Judge Kavanaugh’s name was added to a list of nominees given to President Trump as pre-approved by The Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation.

Most of you probably know of these organizations. They have been around for decades. Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Alito and Justice Thomas all have close ties to the Federalist Society, as did Justice Scalia. – Get the picture?

Here’s what the Federalist Society website says they stand for: “We are committed to the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be.”

Personally, whenever I read this sort of language about respecting “what the law is, not what it should be” I think about how events like racially integrated schools nationwide as law made “as it should be” under an “activist” Supreme Court. – That doesn’t seem so bad to me.

The Heritage Foundation adds to our insight of Judge Kavanaugh’s likely future behavior with this mission statement: “to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”

These two organizations are obviously not bastion s of liberal ideals. In fact, the more I know about them the surer I am that beyond their noble statements about freedom and traditional values , they’re pretty much in it for the money – or at least to protect the moneyed. – You can read references to their activities in the book “Dark Money,” along with fascinating facts about the Koch Brothers, Richard Mellon Scaife, the DeVos family and a number of other defenders of American greatness.

So now we know the priorities of the organizations that recommended Judge Kavanaugh to the President, organizations that he holds in high regard. And we know that their strategists have shown a willingness to pander to diverse right wing social causes if it will help accomplish their broader philosophical goals. This reality has a lot of Americans concerned. Particularly those of us who believe a woman’s body is hers to control; or believe that no American of voting age should be hindered from voting; or that decent health care should be accessible to every American; or that every American has a right to a future where environmental collapse is not a fact of life.

Perhaps a future Justice Kavanaugh will surprise us all. It’s happened before in Supreme Court history. But I’m not counting on it happening this time. I’m afraid that we are entering a period of Supreme Court conservatism that will attempt to dismantle every vestige of liberal government policy from the New Deal to Obamacare. The Court’s future decisions will rarely do this directly. Chief Justice Roberts is too careful about his image and place in history. But the Court may now be able to erode and weaken liberal protections until they become virtually nonexistent.

Such sabotage to America’s future must be stopped as soon as possible. To begin that process, Democrats must take aim on controlling both houses of Congress this year and the White House by 2020.

It took the right wing ideologues (and the millions of dollars behind them) decades to reach this momentous point. We can’t afford to take that long to counter their Judicial Branch victory. This year must be the start of a string of election victories in polling places across the nation. And those victories have to continue for as long as this Supreme Court exists…and beyond. That’s a tall order but the stakes for failure are a whole lot higher.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973