Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/400/4550
Stop the right-wing takeover of the US Supreme Court
Block Bush in the streets!
WITH THE resignation of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, the most contentious political battle of Bush's second term has begun.
Ty Moore, Socialist Alternative, USA
Conservative groups vow to spend "an initial $18 million" in support of Bush's nominee. Meanwhile, a coalition of liberal lobby groups boasts a "state of the art war room" and their own bulging war chest to prevent the confirmation of a right-wing nominee.
The showdown will dominate politics for months. The religious right is determined to dramatically extend their influence by taking over the Supreme Court, but this could trigger a backlash from millions who completely oppose their reactionary agenda.
O'Connor is a pragmatic conservative who often sided with the more liberal justices on key questions like abortion and affirmation action. A right-wing replacement of O'Connor would create a 5-4 majority favouring dramatic new restrictions on women's reproductive rights.
And the fight over who will replace O'Connor is just the first battle in a larger war for the Supreme Court. It remains likely that Justice Rehnquist will step down soon and Justice John Paul Stevens, a liberal, (who is 85) could also retire during Bush's presidency. In this context, the threat of Roe v. Wade [abortion rights] being overturned is real.
The memory of life before abortion was legalised, when 5,000-10,000 women died each year from back-alley procedures, will provoke ferocious opposition if Bush nominates a hard-line right-wing judge.
But there is also much more at stake. A right-wing court could outlaw affirmative action, expand the use of the death penalty, and weaken the separation of Church and State. The court could rule on same-sex marriage and anti-gay discrimination in housing and employment.
Challenges to the Patriot Act, including the ability of the FBI and police to monitor and repress trade union, anti-war, and other left activists, or the government's ability to subject "terror" suspects to military tribunals and torture, could eventually reach the Supreme Court.
Crucial corporate, labour, and environmental regulations are also at stake. In short, an extreme right-wing takeover could seriously erode key democratic rights.
Building a fightback
IT IS entirely possible to build a powerful mass movement capable of defeating Bush's attempt to remake the Supreme Court, as well as his broader corporate, right-wing agenda.
A recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed Bush's approval rating falling to just 42%. Only 19% said the Republican-led Congress shared their priorities. Just 25% approve of Bush's handling of Iraq, and only 25% support him on Social Security [privatising pensions]. All this underlines that Bush is beatable.
Now is the time to launch a serious struggle against Bush and the religious right. Lobbying Senators with phone calls and emails is completely inadequate. The main women's, trade union, civil rights, environmentalist, and anti-war organisations need to urgently organise for massive local and national demonstrations.
We must expose the hypocrisy of "right to life" politicians who support the murderous war to secure Iraqi oil, or the "family values" of Wal-Mart bosses who profit by keeping working families in poverty.
On this basis, protests against Bush's court nominee can take on a broader, more powerful character, bringing people into the streets to also oppose Bush's social security privatisation, the Iraq war, and to demand money for jobs, education and pensions, not war.
Last year, the biggest protest in US history took place, when over a million people marched to defend women's reproductive rights.
Unfortunately, this march was squandered on the electoral aims of John Kerry and the Democratic Party. Only vague demands were made of the political establishment, and no further mass mobilisations were organised (beyond electoral campaigning) to back even these limited demands up.
Instead of mobilising a real movement, the well-financed organisations positioned to lead the fight against Bush's nominee are placing their bets on Senate Democrats putting up a firm filibuster - a blocking procedure that requires at least 60 Senators to overcome (only 55 Senators are Republicans).
But the Democrats (who are subservient to the same corporate paymasters as the Republican Party) have an abysmal history of firmly opposing Bush on anything, including recent judicial battles.
For instance, in May, Senate Democrats buckled under Republican pressure, ending their filibuster against three extreme right-wing court nominees in a rotten compromise.
The power of working-class action must be brought into the political equation. The flash-point battle over the Supreme Court could spark a mass struggle if a bold lead is given.
In The Socialist 7 July 2005: