“This court has already undermined basic rights we all believed we enjoy as Americans — the right to strong unions that bargain collectively, one person one vote principles, redistricting, and regarding the right of women to make their own health care decisions. The stakes for nominating a replacement could not be higher at any moment in our history.”
— NAACP, June 27
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is the subject of renewed liberal anger because two years ago he didn’t allow a vote on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland, to fill the seat of the deceased Antonin Scalia. McConnell, to the consternation of weeping and wailing Democrats, left the privilege of filling the vacancy to the next president, who turned out to be Donald Trump. And President Trump promptly gave us Neil M. Gorsuch. Now, with the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Trump has the chance, which he certainly will take, to nominate a more conservative ideologue to the high court.
Now to the question: Should McConnell be credited with strengthening the hold of a right-wing majority on the high court? No, say I.
That honor — or from, my point of view, blame — goes to those citizens who did not vote for a presidential candidate in 2016. They, not McConnell, are responsible for handing over the Supreme Court to Trump.
I wrote the column quoted above a few weeks before the 2016 election because some black activists were making the asinine argument that Hillary Clinton was not doing enough to motivate African Americans .
The column, like several others during that campaign season, raised the alarming prospect of a Trump with the powers of the presidency in his hands. Just imagine, I suggested, such powers in the possession of a ranting bully who exaggerates and lies without shame — a man who sports a tough-guy facade but is in fact a coward who picks on women, demeans minorities and is thoroughly lacking in human dignity.
With Clinton — even with Obama’s backing — failing to connect with black voters, I was hoping the prospect of a Trump victory would be enough to drive black voters to the polls.
I thought the case was strong. Sadly, the warnings, the pleas, fell on deaf ears. Black voter turnout fell from 66.6 percent of eligible voters in 2012 to 59.6 percent four years later.
Of course, no one appreciated the failure more than Trump.
“They didn’t come out to vote for Hillary. They didn’t come out. And that was a big — so thank you to the African American community,” the president-elect taunted at a mostly white rally in Hershey, Pa., in December 2016.
So here we are, face to face with America’s dark side. We have passed the “what if” stage. Decades of progress, painfully gained, are in peril. The dangers to full rights and privileges lurk in the halls of Congress and where Trump dwells.
That notwithstanding, the power to protect and defend all of the good that has been done still rests with people willing to exercise their rights and ability to be heard. The Gorsuch nomination is settled. Trump’s replacement for Kennedy is not. Neither is the prospective nominee’s commitment to civil rights, equal justice and civil liberties. The stakes are too high to shrink from the battle. The Senate must hear from those with the most to lose if Trump chooses wrongly.
Likewise, Trump’s enablers on both sides of the Capitol should be held accountable for their cowardice and complicity. That’s on Election Day. People in jeopardy of losing their rights should not be spectators to their own demise. This is the year, now is the time, to exercise that hard-won right to vote. Convert Congress into a bulwark against a president hellbent on turning back the clock.
“One of the most decisive steps,” the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said in 1957, “is that little walk to the voting booth.”
Was true then. ’Tis so true now.
Read more from Colbert King’s archive.