Progressive groups are stockpiling millions of dollars in cash, preparing oppo-docs, planning rallies, and ginning up their grassroots for a months-long fight against Donald Trump’s conservative nominee for the Supreme Court.
And that’s before Trump has even announced who his pick is, which he is expected to do in a primetime reveal ceremony at 9 p.m. EST Monday.
At the same time, of the most powerful figures in Democratic politics will be gathering at the steps of Supreme Court building to rally against Trump’s selection. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Jeff Merkley of Oregon will rally alongside with leaders from NARAL Pro-Choice America, SEIU, Human Rights Campaign, the League of Conservation Voters, Planned Parenthood, and others.
And that’s just the kick-off of a campaign that will feature millions of dollars in ads, lots of protests at Senator offices, a deluge of phone calls, and more.
Trump has pledged that his selection will come from a pre-released list of 25 conservatives, most of whom are non-starters with Democrats given the potential picks’ views on abortion rights, labor unions, environmental regulations, and voting identification laws.
And so Democrats have been strategizing on how to sink the pick ever since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement on June 27.
That campaign will largely focus on just a few uncommitted Senators in the middle as Republicans only have a 51-49 majority. If a few Republicans and all the Democrats can be swayed to vote against the nominee, then Trump will likely not be able to appoint a new Justice before the November elections.
“We have to get 51 senators to vote against Trump’s nominee on the floor”
“We have to get 51 senators to vote against Trump’s nominee on the floor,” said Elizabeth Beavers, the associate policy director at Indivisible in explaining their strategy. “We don’t want to get caught up in fairy tale tactics since there’s not a procedure that will save us or shame Mitch McConnell by demonstrating his hypocrisy.”
Those senators include Republicans who support abortion rights like Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Democrats from conservative states like Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. All five voted for Trump’s last Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.
But progressives are stressing that this fight is different from Gorsuch because now the balance of the court could be shifted. Despite being appointed by Republican Ronald Reagan, Kennedy had been the most likely conservative justice to side with liberals from time to time, especially on issues involving gay rights and abortion. Replacing Kennedy with a more reliable conservative would significantly shift the court’s ideological balance in a way that wasn’t true for Gorsuch, who replaced the reliable conservative Antonin Scalia.
The progressive group Demand Justice headed by former Hillary Clinton spokesperson Brian Fallon has jumped headfirst into the campaign against the future Supreme Court Pick, pledging at least $5 million in ads which have already begun targeting Democratic and Republican Senators in their home states.
One such ad currently running in Murkowski’s home state of Alaska doesn’t highlight abortion rights or labor unions but rather Obamacare. “Donald Trump is waging war on our health care. He couldn’t repeal the Affordable Care Act in Congress, so now he’s going to try to gut our health care through the courts,” the ad says.
Progressives privately acknowledge that the odds of success are against them but argue that it is critical to fight anyway. Even if they fail, they hope the issue will motivate Democrats to devote more energy to the midterms elections this fall. While most progressives have focused on flipping the House of Representatives, some are hoping that this fight could ultimately flip the Senate as well.
Cover image: U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat from Massachusetts, speaks to demonstrators as they hold a protest to demand more recovery assistance for areas hit by recent hurricanes, including Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria, during the 'March for Just Recovery,' on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 18, 2017. (Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)