It’s hard to believe, but the Supreme Court used to be the nation’s defender of the little guy. The Supreme Court enshrined civil rights, ending the “separate but equal” doctrine of school segregation, and protected free speech. Today, the Court serves to advance corporate power, proclaiming corporations as people, with the rights to religious belief.
This dramatic march to the right for half a century didn’t happen by accident. In 1971, a corporate lawyer named Lewis Powell wrote a memo that spelled out much of what we’ve seen over the last decades: a major investment in right-wing infrastructure and new crop of right wing candidates running for local and state office, who could then ascend up the ranks of power. Shortly after drafting the memo, Powell accepted a nomination to the Supreme Court by President Nixon.
They were thinking for the long haul. It’s time we do the same.
In the Hobby Lobby case, the Court allowed business owners to force their religions onto their employees by denying workers access to contraceptive coverage otherwise required by law. And in Harris v Quinn, SCOTUS undermines the ability of homecare workers, mostly low wage women, to form unions.
This is the same Court that undermined the Voting Rights Act, unleashed a flood of money into our democracy, and stopped millions of low income families from having access to affordable healthcare by allowing states to refused Medicaid funding. These decisions turn back the clock on the progressive movements we’ve fought to build across the country. But instead of backing down, we’re doubling down.
So, yes, progressives should protest these decisions. Yes, we must get involved in the fights that matter this year, and yes, it’s important that Tea Party Republicans not take over the Senate.
At Working Families, we believe that’s done through building local organizations with independent power to yank Democrats and Republicans in a sensible, progressive direction. And through electing progressive champions who will actually stare down right wing Republicans and conservative Democrats alike to take on corporate power and fight inequality. People like Cory McCray, a progressive union organizer who just won a Democratic Primary for State Legislature on the East Side of Baltimore, with the help of Maryland Working Families.
Cory is one of a handful of candidates featured in a Salon article about a new generation of progressive leaders that gives me real hope. The article argues that if we’re going to build the kind of movement capable of making real change, it will have to be “a bottom-up affair, one that is driven as much or more by longtime activists, issue-advocacy groups, organized labor and disaffected youth. It will have to be a movement, not a P.R. campaign.”
That sounds to me like the best chance we’ve got. And if you agree, now’s the time to join.