Linda Greenhouse, the former New York Times reporter who covered with great acuity the Supreme Court for many years until her recent retirement, shows that acuity once again in an oped in the Times. With precision, subtlety, and seeming detachment, she describes the destructive role of Antonin Scalia and the conservative majority on the court of which he was the most outspoken member.
On the website of The Nation today, Ari Berman makes a persuasive argument that the unexpected death of Justice Antonin Scalia has turned the makeup of the Supreme Court into the preeminent issue in this election. “ It’s become a cliché every presidential cycle,” Berman writes, “to say that the Court should be one of the most important issues in the election but this year, following the death of Antonin Scalia, it’s never been truer. The next president will almost certainly appoint one or more Justices, especially if Republicans zealously oppose whomever President Obama nominates, which will shape the direction of the court for decades.” And he mentions that at the heart of the deliberations and decisions of the Supreme Court will be such issues as ealthcare, gay marriage, voting rights, affirmative action, reproductive rights, labor rights, immigration, and climate change.
The Sanders presidential primary run is quickly becoming the most significant progressive/left challenge to “establishment politics and economics,” to use Bernie’s words, in the past 30 or so years.
This doesn’t take away from the significance of other past or present social protest movements. Nor is it a guarantee that it will last beyond the present election cycle. It still remains to be seen if it will acquire the vision and capacity to capture the imagination of tens of millions, especially our very diverse working class, people of color, and women, as well as challenge over the longer run the dominance of the billionaire class.
1. If your time frame is short, Bernie’s showing in Iowa – a “virtual tie” to use his words – wasn’t a political earthquake. He was, after all, only 3 to 5 percent behind Hillary in the week before the caucus, depending on the poll, and momentum was running in his favor. So when MSNBC reported that he was neck in neck with Hillary in the vote count, I wasn’t blown out of my chair.
But if you stretch out the time frame from a week to a year ago when Bernie announced his candidacy, the results are undeniably a big quake on the Richter scale of American politics. Next to no one at that time thought that he would fight Hillary to a draw in Iowa and go into New Hampshire with a sizable lead in the polls.
I have said more than once that the presidential campaign and its outcome could well depend on what is happening in the larger political environment over the coming year. And that environment isn’t entirely predictable. It can change in unanticipated ways. And these changes can quickly alter – even turn upside down – the election terrain and the prospects of candidates, parties, and the coalitions and movements that support them.