Democrats should become single-issue voters: the courts

Protesters for and against abortion demonstrate outside the Supreme Court on Monday, June 27, 2022 in the aftermath of its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Peter Afriyie
Protesters for and against abortion demonstrate outside the Supreme Court on Monday, June 27, 2022 in the aftermath of its decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Throughout Donald Trump’s presidency, whenever he would do something particularly outrageous, some Democrats would offer “… but her emails!” as a response — a play on the tragic storyline of 2016, wherein Hillary Clinton’s decision to delete 30,000 non-work related emails somehow made her unelectable (a truly ridiculous position in our view) served as a unifying rallying call. We know the truth: America missed out on a great one.

There are so many things that Clinton was right about, in her various diagnoses of Trump’s pathology and positions. But perhaps the most important thing that she was right about was that 2016 was actually the most consequential election of our lifetime.

The Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization was the dam breaking for a series of 6-3 (or 5-4, at best) decisions that will dominate our lives for decades to come. Trump’s nomination of three young, conservative justices will haunt us, undoubtedly making ours a less free, fair society as long as they sit on the bench. 

While Democrats mull their post-Roe v. Wade response, it has become increasingly clear to us that we cannot afford to focus just on reproductive rights. Of course, that matters hugely. But the lesson of the Dobbs ruling, and the ruling Monday that a high school football coach had the right to pray on the field, is that our entire way of life will be on the ballot in elections to come.

The only way to animate voters at the level necessary to meet this moment is to re-brand them as
“court-appointment voters.” If we try to ensure that Democrats are the ones making significant court appointments, any left-leaning issue voter should be satisfied.

There are so many critical issues that ultimately end up before the Supreme Court, but four are atop liberals’ list of priorities: voting rights, access to health care, reform of gun laws, and climate change.

If there’s one legislative priority on which Democrats wanted a hard-nosed push from Biden, it’s voting rights. H.R. 1, which passed the House in March and was considered “dead on arrival” by June, would have established national voter registration and mail-in voting standards, nonpartisan redistricting commissions, new ethics rules for public servants, and changes to campaign finance laws. 

With no legislative solution on the horizon, voters are left to the mercy of the courts — and the Supreme Court just reinstated a Louisiana congressional map that a federal judge found diluted the power of Black voters. As Sam Spital, director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, put it, “A year of work proving Louisiana’s congressional map discriminates against Black voters. A 152-page district court opinion finding discrimination, upheld in a 33-page opinion by the most conservative federal court in the nation. Taken away by 6 justices in an act of raw power.” More of this will come.

During Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, Democrats worried that she would vote to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), based on her legal rulings and writings. She surprised her detractors by voting to uphold the ACA’s individual mandate in 2021. But our concern about protecting Americans’ health care options doesn’t stop with the ACA, which could face future challenges — especially if Republicans take control of Congress again. 

As the first week following the Dobbs decision has shown, abortion is health care. In Missouri, when a woman suffers from an ectopic pregnancy, must her vitals be crashing before it’s enough of a medical emergency to satisfy Missouri’s attorney general? And in Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton has said he’s considering prosecuting companies that provide benefits for employees to travel out of state for abortions. Gender-affirming medical care is health care, and with a recent ruling out of Texas, it’s possible that more trans rights cases will reach the high court.

One would think there would be a limit to the gun violence we’re willing to absorb as a nation, but there doesn’t seem to be. Though Biden just signed a bipartisan federal gun safety bill, it lacks some restrictions that Democrats sought, such as a revival of the 1994 ban on assault-style weapons. Coupled with the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down New York’s limits on concealed carry, we are facing an America with no restrictions on the Second Amendment. It’s expected the decision will trigger lawsuits in other liberal states, such as California, Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts and we can expect the conservative court to continue to vote against limitations on guns.

You may not know it, but Americans do want the government to act on climate change. One poll found more than 60 percent of Americans consider climate change to be “very” or “extremely” important for the government to address. The ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate gas emissions as an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act is pending before the Supreme Court. The U.S. is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, behind China, and we could do more damage if the government is limited in its ability to protect the climate for future generations. Cases such as this one will continue to come up, giving the court influence over climate policy and environmental regulation.

These are just a few of the important issues the court will take on. The justices also play a central role in deciding immigration policy; separation of church and state; whether Americans are treated fairly under the law, regardless of their skin color, gender, or sexual orientation; and much more.

Taken together, it’s obvious that Democrats must coalesce around a message of voting to save America through the courts. As Bill Clinton once said, Democrats fall in love while Republicans fall in line. We must come together around the goal of winning the war of judicial appointments from this moment forward.

Trump secured his place in the history books for many (mostly bad) things, and he will be known as a conservative hero for changing the make-up of our courts for generations to come. We need to win them back.

Jessica Tarlov is head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor. She earned her Ph.D. at the London School of Economics in political science. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaTarlov.

Antjuan Seawright is a Democratic political strategist, founder and CEO of Blueprint Strategy LLC, a CBS News political contributor, and a senior visiting fellow at Third Way. Follow him on Twitter @aneklasontjuansea.

Tags Amy Coney Barrett conservatives Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Donald Trump Federal Courts Hillary Clinton liberals U.S. Supreme Court

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