The Left's Politics of Self-Destruction

Justice Anthony Kennedy sworn in by former Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

Say what you wan about Right wing dingbats. But they vote. They fall in line. They don't spend every waking moment of friendly presidencies trying to discredit the captain of their own team.

Do you know why? This is why:

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced Wednesday that he is retiring from the Supreme Court, a move that gives President Trump the chance to replace the court’s pivotal justice and dramatically shift the institution to the right, setting up a bitter partisan showdown on Kennedy’s successor.

The Supreme Court is the single most pivotal institution in setting law that is not subject to popular will. It can broaden the scope of Constitutional rights, or it can outright sanction racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, and other forms of bigotry. The Supreme Court can prevent discrimination against working people, or it can codify an employer's right to bust unions and dictate the type of health care its employees can receive.

Already, a conservative Supreme Court has assailed the right to vote, collective bargaining, women's rights. Now with Justice Kennedy off the bench and replaced by a Trumpist, life for those of us who believe in justice is about to become a lot harder. With Republicans having already stolen a seat on the Supreme Court with Trump's first nominee, Neil Gorsuch, the replacement of Kennedy, a right-of-center conservative, with a radical Trump Republican will sharply turn the Court to the Right, for generations to come.

One hopes against hope that the efforts underway by Democratic Senators to hold a vote on a Trump nominee until after a new Congress is seated in 2019 succeeds, but it is unlikely to. Even if Democrats are successful in holding up the vote until after the elections, Republicans may retain the Senate at any rate - at least, they are much more likely to hold the Senate than to hold the House. And if there is one thing that unifies the 51 Republicans in the Senate with Donald Trump, it is the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pack the Supreme Court and deal a crushing blow to progressive principles and individual and civil rights.

To state an even more horrifying truth, this may not be Trump's last appointment to the Supreme Court.

It behooves us to examine, then, how America arrived at this critical junction of history of extraordinary opportunity for the radical Right. Less than a decade ago, America seemed to be on a different path. Even with an economy collapsing, America was choosing hope, electing its first black President, rejecting the politics of cynicism.

Barack Obama's election along with large Democratic majorities in Congress in 2008 raised hopes for a new direction for America. President Obama and Democrats in Congress delivered. They passed historic reforms in health care, banking, and workers' rights. They worked to wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They nominated and confirmed two extraordinarily talented and compassionate women to the Supreme Court, one of whom wrote one of the best dissents in favor of the rights of workers ever seen. They reversed the tide in the worst economic meltdown in nearly a century.

But all of that did not satisfy those on the Left who demanded that President Obama wave a magic wand and usher in liberal utopia. It did not satisfy those on the Left who wanted the banks to be nationalized. It caused the loudest supporters of single-payer health care to call President Obama a weak sellout and assert that the Affordable Care Act, by working within the existing system, would make it more difficult to make the case for a single-payer system (under the theory that one must burn down a village in order to build it). Some of them even went on Fox News to denounce President Obama.

The efforts of President Obama and Congressional Democrats were ridiculed as too little and ineffective by the ideological Left as much as it was the radical Right. If President Obama's historic efforts to expand the role of diplomacy was slammed by the Right, his commitment to orderly withdrawals of troops from wars begun by his predecessors earned him the title of warmonger from militant pacifists.

No sooner had the Democratic party had gained uniform control of the elected branches of the federal government than the Left's loudest ideologues began a fight against the team with the best possibility in decades to deliver on progressive priorities. Instead of confronting racist right wingers who challenged the citizenship of the country's first black president, the predominantly-white ideologue Left found ways to pile on Obama using their own offensive language. Rather than fight the unified Republican opposition to President Obama, the hysterical Left found ways to trash Democrats. Instead of defending the president and the Democratic Congress, they focused on making the ideological case that no real difference existed between Republicans and Democrats. Heck, they even called for people to stay home and protest non-vote.

And they succeeded. 2010 was a bloodbath for Congressional Democrats as a racist red tide rose up and ushered in the most radical Congress in modern memory. Republicans won the House, Democrats lost 6 senate seats, and Republicans were now in comfortable positions in governorships and state legislatures to redraw district lines in the wake of the 2010 census. Many of the Left's self-proclaimed mouthpieces even took a victory lap; among the most notable was Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas hailing the Republican landslide as a show of power and influence of angry progressives.

With a Republican House for President Obama to deal with, the same ideologues responsible for depressing Democratic turnout in 2010 would be back out in full force tormenting the president. As far as they were concerned, Obama could not make any compromises for the sake of governing - or even for the sake of keeping the government open - because, after all, the keyboard commandos knew that all Obama had to do to make Republicans pee their pants was to bully pulpit.

In 2012, Barack Obama's campaign bested the naysayers, as President Obama won a thumping victory and Democrats slightly increased their numbers in the Senate and the House. But in the true floggings-will-continue-till-morale-improves mode, the "progressives" were determined to punish Obama again in 2014 by holding him responsible for the non-existence of a perfect liberal utopia in America.

Once again, they persuaded protest voters and nonvoters, costing Democrats a stunning 9 seats in the Senate and increasing the Republican majority in the House. This election was crucial, because it was at this point that Democrats lost control of the Senate for the first time during the Obama presidency. Among other things, Mitch McConnell used that majority in 2016 to keep the Senate from considering President Obama's final nominee to the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland.

The blocking of Merrick Garland should have been the equivalent of a thousand sirens for the Professional Left. McConnell made it clear that he was holding the vacant seat open for the possibility - however unlikely it may have seemed at the time - that Donald Trump would become president and nominate an archconservative to the bench with the backing of a Republican senate.

No such sirens ensued. The Left's clickbaiters not only used their own indignation to trash the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, both before and after she had secured the nomination, they full-on subscribed to the Russian Trump-friendly propaganda machine in the form of Wikileaks. The overwhelmingly white Bernie Sanders ideologues not only papered over mounting evidence of Sanders' ignorance - if not willful negligence - of race as a defining issue in America, they were so busy indignant about Clinton that they couldn't be bothered to rally against Trump's fast-moving racist election train. Some (I'm looking at you, Susan Sarandon) even equated Hillary Clinton with Donald Trump and claimed their conscience required abstinence in the 2016 election.

So the ideologues, in clear conscience, helped elect Donald Trump by less than 80,000 votes in three states where the loss of white privilege was all the rage, even as Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes.

And now? Republicans and Trump are at the precipices of setting back social progress, workplace progress, human rights progress by decades if not centuries. Stronger banking regulations? History. Voting rights? Show me your papers. Any dream of universal health care? Likely to be found unconstitutional by an activist Trumpian Court. Free college? When Trump and his Senate Republicans are done, the Supreme Court will be more likely to rule that the minimum wage is unconstitutional.

The very movement that prided itself on uncompromising pursuit of these progressive ends is now squarely responsible for the near annihilation of that agenda, not just temporarily but for decades to come. The only reason we are here is because the Left brought us here by attacking its friends. The Left systematically dismantled the checks against this very outcome.

Maybe next time, they'll do better, but somehow, I doubt it.

Like what you read? Leave a Tip. 

💰 Fund the Fight