Clinton said that the court’s composition “could undermine virtually every pillar of the progressive movement.”
PABLO MARTINEZ MONSIVAIS-POOL/GETTY IMAGES
The future of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance, and Hillary Clinton wants you to know she’s the one who can save it.
In an op-ed for The Boston Globe published Friday, the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential hopeful explained how the 2016 election marks a “make-or-break moment” for the balance of power on the high court — and what could happen if a Republican is elected president.
“The stakes are clear,” Clinton wrote of the slate of cases now pending before the court. “In a single term, conservative justices could undermine virtually every pillar of the progressive movement.”
It appears that Clinton did her homework, as she delves into the particulars of some of the biggest cases the court has heard in recent months, as well as those it’s about to hear — including cases on affirmative action, immigration, voting rights and the livelihood of public unions.
“Those who care about the fairness of elections, the future of unions, racial disparities in universities, the rights of women, or the future of our planet, should care about who appoints the next justices,” Clinton wrote.
The current demographics of the Supreme Court are what make the coming election such a relevant issue. Clinton noted that three justices on the court — Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia — will all be in their 80s by the time November rolls around, “which is past the court’s average retirement age.”
Clinton appears to be playing catch-up with the field of Republican canididates, many of whom have devoted significant airtime to the issue of who sits on the court. In debates and on the trail, various GOP candidates have spent time discussing the merits and demerits of specific justices.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whom Clinton singled out by name, is perhaps the most vocal of them all. In November, Cruz told Bloomberg Politics that Republicans have an “abysmal record” picking Supreme Court justices. He has vowed to pick “rock-ribbed conservatives” to the court, and has also said that Chief Justice John Roberts — whom Cruz himself once supported — is actually a bad choice to lead the court because he lacks a “true conservative record.”
Democrats, by contrast, have not once brought up the composition of the Supreme Court during debates, and have only glancingly referred to “litmus tests” for whom they would eventually pick — as both Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have done in reference to the court’s Citizens United decision.
Clinton’s op-ed is also notable in that she argues how Republicans see this election as their chance to “pack the courts with jurists who will turn back the clock” on progress — apparently an acknowledgement that some of the more controversial cases to go before the justices got their start in lower courts that were willing to hear them.
“After years of accusing liberals of judicial activism, conservatives are wholeheartedly relying on Republican-appointed judges to undo progressive achievements,” Clinton wrote. “They’re using radical legal strategies to accomplish through the courts what they’ve failed to do through legislation, like dismembering the Voting Rights Act or attacking unions.”
Maybe this is the beginning of a shift in the Democratic field to remind the base that by voting with the future of the judiciary in mind, they’re voting for many things at once.