Wednesday, June 29, 2022

“They’re not here to hurt me. Take the F’ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here” -Trump


Yesterday’s testimony before the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol was explosive. It tied former president Donald Trump and his chief of staff Mark Meadows directly to a plot to overturn the U.S. government.

The witness was Cassidy Hutchinson, a 25-year-old aide to Meadows and congressional liaison who was well known on Capitol Hill. She was a staunch Republican who had worked for Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA), the second highest Republican in the House, and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX). An aide to former House speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), Brendan Buck, tweeted that “when Meadows was on the Hill he always insisted that she be in *every* meeting he had, no matter how small. It was odd then, and doesn't seem to be working out for him now.”

Hutchinson testified that leaders in the Trump White House planned the attack on the Capitol. On January 2, 2021, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani met with Meadows and others in the White House, and as Hutchinson walked him to his vehicle, Giuliani asked her if she was excited about the sixth, saying, “We’re going to the Capitol! It’s going to be great!” When she asked Meadows what Giuliani meant, Meadows told her, “There’s a lot going on…things might get real, real bad on January 6.”

On January 4, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien called Meadows to warn of violence on January 6. The Secret Service and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Anthony Ornato, who was in charge of security protocol to protect anyone covered by presidential protection, also warned of coming violence.

Hutchinson connected Trump to the insurrection attempt when she noted that on January 5, Trump told Meadows to contact Trump confidants Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, both of whom Trump had recently pardoned after they had been convicted of crimes, to talk about the next day. Hutchinson says Meadows did that. At the time, Stone was in Washington, D.C., where he was repeatedly photographed with members of the Oath Keepers who were acting as his bodyguards. A number of Oath Keepers have been charged with seditious conspiracy; at least two have pleaded guilty.

That night, Meadows wanted to go to the “War Room” that Giuliani, Trump lawyer John Eastman, and others had set up at the Willard Hotel, but he ultimately decided to call in rather than to go in person. According to Hutchinson, by about 8:00 on the morning of January 6, intelligence reports were already coming in that some of the people near the Ellipse, where Trump was to speak, were dressed in body armor and armed with Glock-style pistols, shotguns, and AR-15s, along with other weapons. At 10:00, Hutchinson, Ornato, and Meadows talked of the weapons, but Meadows brushed it off, asking only if they had told Trump, which they had.

That made Hutchinson’s next revelation seismic. Text messages between Hutchinson and Ornato show that Trump was “furious” before the Ellipse rally because he wanted photos to show the space full of people and it was not full because law enforcement was screening people for weapons before they could go in. Trump wanted the screening machines, called magnetometers, to be taken down. Hutchinson testified that Trump yelled, “They’re not here to hurt me. Take the F’ing mags away. Let my people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.”

Then, knowing that some of the people in the crowd were armed, Trump repeatedly urged them to “fight,” using language his lawyers had warned against.

Hutchinson testified that Trump was determined to go to the Capitol with the crowd despite the desperate efforts of White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to make sure it didn’t happen. Cipollone told Hutchinson that Trump’s appearance there would open the White House up to being charged with “every crime imaginable” because it would look like Trump was inciting a riot. Nonetheless, Trump was furious that Meadows had not been able to persuade the Secret Service to make it happen, so furious that Cassidy heard from others that when he found that the SUV in which he was riding would not take him to the Capitol, Trump had lunged at the agent refusing to take him there.

Hutchinson did not know what the plan was for Trump’s trip to the Capitol, but there was talk of an additional speech there, “before he went in. I know that there was a conversation about him going into the House chamber at one point,” she said. The president is only supposed to go into the House chamber when specifically invited, so perhaps he expected to be invited in, or perhaps he was going in without an invitation, or perhaps those talking about it were just tossing out unworkable ideas.

Back at the White House, as the rioters breached the Capitol, Hutchinson went into Meadows’s office between 2:00 and 2:05 to ask if he was watching the scene unfold on his television. Scrolling through his phone, he answered that he was. She asked if he had talked to Trump. He said, “Yeah. He wants to be alone right now.” Cipollone burst into the office and said to go get the president. Meadows repeated that Trump didn't want to do anything. Cipollone “very clearly said this to Mark—something to the effect of, ‘Mark, something needs to be done or people are going to die and the blood’s going to be on your f-ing hands. This is getting out of control.’”

When the rioters began to chant, “Hang Mike Pence,” Cipollone tried again to get Trump to stop the rioters, and Meadows again said, “You heard it, Pat. He thinks Pence deserves it. He doesn’t think they’re doing anything wrong.” Then, rather than calming the crowd as it threatened the vice president, at 2:24, Trump put out the tweet further blaming Pence for letting him down.

By 3:00, White House personnel, Ivanka Trump, and various members of Congress were begging Trump to release a statement telling the rioters to go home, making it clear they all knew he could make the violence stop if only he wanted to. But he didn’t want to. Not until 4:17, after Biden had already made a statement, did he speak up. Trump told the rioters to go home and that “we love you.”

The next day, as Cabinet officers talked of invoking the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and removing Trump from office, advisors convinced Trump to make a video. Even then, he refused to say that the rioters should be prosecuted—instead, he wanted to talk of pardoning them—and refused to say that the election was over. In the aftermath of the election, both Meadows and Giuliani asked for a presidential pardon.

What emerged from today’s explosive hearing was the story of a president and his close advisors who planned a coup, sent an armed mob to the Capitol, approved of calls to murder the vice president, and had to be forced to call the mob off. Two of the president’s closest advisors then asked for a presidential pardon. While they did not get those pardons, Trump’s PAC later gave $1 million to Meadows’s Conservative Partnership Institute.

That, right there, is enough to make today stunning. But there was more. Hutchinson described an angry and violent man who threw plates at the walls when he was frustrated. The committee revealed that when it interviewed Michael Flynn, he took the Fifth on whether violence on January 6th was justified either legally or morally. He also took the Fifth on whether he believed in the peaceful transition of power in the U.S.

Vice-chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) revealed at the end of the hearing that witnesses said they had been pressured by Trump’s people to remain “loyal” when testifying, and having just tipped their hand about just how much information the committee has, Thompson urged those witnesses to come back and revise their testimony. He urged others to come forward as well—perhaps a nudge to Cipollone, who has been portrayed positively in the hearings, both today and in the hearing covering Trump’s attempt to install Jeffrey Clark as acting attorney general, when Cipollone stood against that corruption.

CNN journalist Jake Tapper concluded: “It was devastating testimony, a portrait of a president who was completely and utterly out of control and, without question, knew of the danger of his supporters that were going to the mall…. This was obscene.”

It was. And yet no one in the White House either spoke up to warn us before January 6 or testified at Trump’s second impeachment trial, where he was charged with incitement of insurrection and, thanks to Republican senators, acquitted.

—Heather Cox Richardson



Tuesday, June 28, 2022

"By leaving the door open to more individual prayer in schools, the court may also open a proverbial can of worms" -Charles J. Russo


The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently banned school-sponsored prayer in public schools. At the same time, lower courts have generally forbidden public school employees from openly praying in the workplace, even if no students are involved. Yet on June 27, 2022, the Supreme Court effectively gave individual employees’ prayer the thumbs up – potentially ushering in more religious activities in public schools.

In Kennedy v. Bremerton School District – the Supreme Court’s first case directly addressing the question – the court ruled that a school board in Washington state violated a coach’s rights by not renewing his contract after he ignored district officials’ directive to stop kneeling in silent prayer on the field’s 50-yard line after games. He claimed that the board violated his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and the Supreme Court’s majority agreed 6-3.

From my perspective as a specialist in education law, the case is noteworthy because the court has now decided that public school employees can pray when supervising students. It also helps close out a Supreme Court term when the current justices’ increasing interest in claims of religious discrimination was on full display, with another “church-state” case decided in religious plaintiffs’ favor just last week. And on June 24, 2022, the court overturned Roe v. Wade. The debate over abortion is often framed in terms of religion, even though the court’s holding focused on other constitutional grounds.

Facts of the case

In 2008, Kennedy, a self-described Christian, worked as head coach of the junior varsity football team and assistant coach of the varsity team at Bremerton High School. He began to kneel on the 50-yard line after games, regardless of the outcome, offering a brief, quiet prayer of thanks.

While Kennedy first prayed alone, eventually most of the players on his team, and then members of opposing squads, joined in. He later added inspirational speeches, causing some parents and school employees to voice concerns that players would feel compelled to participate.

School officials directed Kennedy to stop praying on the field because they feared that his actions could put the board at risk of violating the First Amendment. The government is prohibited from making laws “respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” – language known as the establishment clause, which is often understood as meaning public officials cannot promote particular faiths over others.

In September 2015, school officials notified the coach that he could continue delivering his inspirational speeches after games, but they had to remain secular. Although students could pray, he could not. Even so, a month later, Kennedy resumed his on-field prayers. He had publicized his plans to do so and was joined by players, coaches and parents, while reporters watched.

Bremerton’s school board offered Kennedy accommodations to allow him to pray more privately on the field after the stadium emptied out, which he rejected. At the end of October, officials placed him on paid leave for violating their directive and eventually chose not to renew his one-year contract. Kennedy filed suit in August 2016.

Two complicated clauses

Kennedy raised two major claims: that the school board violated his rights to freedom of speech and also to the free practice of his religion. However, the Ninth Circuit twice rejected these claims because it concluded that when he prayed, he did so as a public employee whose actions could have been viewed as having the board’s approval. Moreover, the Ninth Circuit agreed with the school board that the district had a compelling interest to avoid violating the establishment clause.

During oral arguments at the Supreme Court, though, it was clear that the majority of justices were sympathetic to Kennedy’s claims of religious discrimination and more concerned with his rights to religious freedom than the board’s concern about violating the establishment clause.

Writing for the court, Justice Neil Gorsuch noted that “a proper understanding of the Amendment’s Establishment Clause [does not] require the government to single out private religious speech for special disfavor. The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike.”

One aspect of Kennedy with potentially far-reaching consequences is that it largely repudiates the three major tests the court has long applied in cases involving religion. The first, Lemon v. Kurtzman, was a 1971 dispute about aid to faith-based schools in Pennsylvania. The Supreme Court’s decision required that interactions between the government and religion must pass a three-pronged test in order to avoid violating the establishment clause.

First, an action must have a secular legislative purpose. In addition, its principle or primary effect must neither advance nor inhibit religion, and it cannot result in excessive entanglement between the government and religion. Regardless of whether one supported or opposed the “Lemon test,” it was often unwieldy.

A decade later, in Lynch v. Donnelly – a case about a Christmas display on public property in Rhode Island – the court determined that governmental actions cannot appear to endorse a particular religion.

Finally, in 1992’s Lee v. Weisman, a dispute from Rhode Island about graduation prayer, the court wrote that subjecting students to prayer was a form of coercion. The Supreme Court has backed away from the Lemon test for years. In 1993, Justice Antonin Scalia caustically described it as “some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad, after being repeatedly killed and buried, […stalking] our Establishment Clause jurisprudence.”

Kennedy may have put the final nail in Lemon’s coffin, with Gorsuch writing that the court should instead interpret the establishment clause in light of “historical practices and understandings.” He went on to remark that “this Court has long recognized as well that ‘secondary school students are mature enough’” to understand that their schools allowing someone freedom of speech, in order to avoid discrimination, does not mean officials are endorsing that view, let alone forcing students to participate.

Moving forward

In a lengthy dissent almost as long as the opinion of the court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan, expressed their serious reservations about the outcome. Setting the tone at the outset, Sotomayor chided the court for “paying almost exclusive attention to the Free Exercise Clause’s protection for individual religious exercise while giving short shrift to the Establishment Clause’s prohibition on state establishment of religion.”

The dissent echoed some points from the June 21, 2022, dissent in Carson v. Makin, another high-profile case about religion and schools, where Sotomayor criticized the majority for dismantling “the wall of separation between church and state that the Framers fought to build.”

Kennedy v. Bremerton is unlikely to end disagreements over public employees’ prayer as free speech, or the tension between the free exercise and establishment clauses. In fact, the case brings to mind the saying to be careful what one wishes for, because one’s wishes may be granted. By leaving the door open to more individual prayer in schools, the court may also open a proverbial can of worms. Will supporters who rallied behind a Christian coach be as open-minded if, or when, other groups whose values differ from their own wish to display their beliefs in public? Meanwhile, Kennedy has said that he would like his job back – so stay tuned.

Charles J. Russo, Joseph Panzer Chair in Education in the School of Education and Health Sciences and Research Professor of Law, University of Dayton. The essay is from the Conversation.


Monday, June 27, 2022

Joe Biden and the Democratic Party


“Three days into our post-Roe reality, the rallying cry from top Democrats remains largely unchanged: vote harder.

“It goes without saying that the right, Donald Trump, the shockingly well-organized anti-abortion movement, Mitch McConnell, the entire GOP, and extremist judges are responsible for the end of Roe. But for me, in the two months since the world first learned of the draft opinion of the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe, there's also been a startling vacuum of leadership in the struggle to protect abortion rights. For me, it really seems like Democratic leaders read the leak back in May—and decided that singing ‘God Bless America’ on the steps of the US Capitol, along with a poem, would suffice for a response once the decision became official.

“I wrote about the demoralizing effects of watching this White House continue to decline to use its authority and mount a fight that matches the brazenness of Republicans. But I'm curious. How are you guys feeling about Joe Biden's refusal, thus far, to take on actions like eliminating the filibuster and expanding the court? In the face of catastrophe, is ‘vote harder’ enough for you?”

—Inae Oh
Mother Jones



I am afraid that today’s Democratic Party’s ill-advised priorities, political stupidity, schizophrenic identity, split coalition, endless procrastination and vulnerable candidacies will enable the Republican Party to take over the House and Senate in 2022 and the presidency in 2024.

What Biden and the democratic leadership need to address before it is too late, besides the antiquated filibuster and Freedom to Vote Act, is the lack of unity in the Democratic Party (e.g. centrists Manchin and Sinema); Republican propagation of lies; the ongoing Republican subversion of the next elections; the Republican attempt to rigged the voting system in their favor; the Republican focus on voting in partisan supervisors for elections; Republican gerrymandering; Republican legislator purges; Republican sabotage of the U.S. mail system; Republican attacks on Medicare and Social Security; Republican (or theocratic) takeover of the U.S. Supreme Court; rising American religious fundamentalism; the pandemic and its effects on healthcare; the unvaccinated and their effects on hospitals and the economy; the global demand for thermal energy; the climate crisis; the education and teacher crisis; cyber security; immigration reform; corporate corruption; pharmaceutical greed; wage stagnation, inflation and reflation; Russia, China, North Korea...

What Biden and the democratic leadership also need to address is an expansion of Medicare to include dental, vision and hearing benefits; an expansion of the Child Tax Credit; an ample reduction of prescription drug prices; the availability of healthcare for those who cannot afford it; the income inequality and unfair taxation of the wealthy elite, and the Build Back Better legislation, to name just a few.  

-Glen Brown


"Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor called out her colleague Neil Gorsuch, saying his decision siding with a praying ex-football coach 'misconstrues the facts' of the case"


The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 decision handed down Monday [June 27], sided with a former high school football coach who was fired from his position for leading prayers at the 50-yard line immediately following games. 

Justice Neil Gorsuch delivered the majority opinion for the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, writing: "The Constitution and the best of our traditions counsel mutual respect and tolerance, not censorship and suppression, for religious and nonreligious views alike." In his opinion, Gorsuch wrote that the coach, Joe Kennedy, led a "quiet, personal prayer." But in her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said Kennedy's prayers weren't as minor as the court's opinion claimed.

"The record reveals that Kennedy had a longstanding practice of conducting demonstrative prayers on the 50-yard line of the football field. Kennedy consistently invited others to join his prayers and for years led student athletes in prayer at the same time and location," Sotomayor wrote. "The Court ignores this history." 

Sotomayor also included a photo of one of Kennedy's post-game prayers in her dissent which shows a number of students gathered around him on the field.  She wrote that during this prayer on September 11, 2015, Kennedy "led a prayer out loud, holding up a player's helmet as the players kneeled around him."

Kennedy initially sued Bremerton School District, alleging their requests to stop his prayers were infringing on his First Amendment rights. The district argued that they didn't oppose Kennedy praying, they just asked that he pray alone and away from students, even offering him the option to return to the field after students and other bystanders left the area following the games. The school district said Kennedy's conduct could be perceived as a government endorsement of religion, which the First Amendment's establishment clause prohibits. 

After multiple lower courts dismissed his legal challenges, Kennedy eventually turned to the Supreme Court, which took up his case and ultimately sided with him. In her dissent, Sotomayor also ripped the court's decision as eroding the separation between church and state.

"The Court sets us further down a perilous path in forcing States to entangle themselves with religion, with all of our rights hanging in the balance," Sotomayor wrote. "As much as the Court protests otherwise, today's decision is no victory for religious liberty."

-Business Insider

Darren Bailey: "A far-right state senator who is unlike any nominee the party has put forward for governor in living memory"

Darren Bailey, the front-runner in the Republican primary for governor of Illinois, was finishing his stump speech last week at a senior center in this Central Illinois town when a voice called out: “Can we pray for you?” Mr. Bailey readily agreed. The speaker, a youth mentor from Lincoln named Kathy Schmidt, placed her right hand on his left shoulder while he closed his eyes and held out his hands, palms open.

“More than anything,” she prayed, “I ask for that, in this election, you raise up the righteous and strike down the wicked.” The wicked, in this case, are the Chicago-based moderates aiming to maintain control over the Illinois Republican Party. And the righteous is Mr. Bailey, a far-right state senator who is unlike any nominee the party has put forward for governor in living memory.

A 56-year-old farmer whose Southern Illinois home is closer to Nashville than to Chicago, he wears his hair in a crew cut, speaks with a thick drawl and does not sand down his conservative credentials, as so many past leading G.O.P. candidates have done to try to appeal to suburbanites in this overwhelmingly Democratic state. On Saturday, former President Donald J. Trump endorsed Mr. Bailey at a rally near Quincy, Ill

Mr. Bailey rose to prominence in Illinois politics by introducing legislation to kick Chicago out of the state. When the coronavirus pandemic began, he was removed from a state legislative session for refusing to wear a mask, and he sued Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, over statewide virus mitigation efforts. Painted on the door of his campaign bus is the Bible verse Ephesians 6:10-19, which calls for followers to wear God’s armor in a battle against “evil rulers.”

He is the favored candidate of the state’s anti-abortion groups, and on Friday he celebrated the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade as a “historic and welcomed moment.” He has said he opposes the practice, including in cases of rape and incest.

Mr. Bailey has upended carefully laid $50 million plans by Illinois Republican leaders to nominate Mayor Richard C. Irvin of Aurora, a moderate suburbanite with an inspiring personal story who they believed could win back the governor’s mansion in Springfield in what is widely forecast to be a winning year for Republicans.

Mr. Bailey has been aided by an unprecedented intervention from Mr. Pritzker and the Pritzker-funded Democratic Governors Association, which have spent nearly $35 million combined attacking Mr. Irvin while trying to lift Mr. Bailey. No candidate for any office is believed to have ever spent more to meddle in another party’s primary. The Illinois governor’s race is now on track to become the most expensive campaign for a nonpresidential office in American history.

Public and private polling ahead of Tuesday’s primary shows Mr. Bailey with a lead of 15 percentage points over Mr. Irvin and four other candidates. His strength signals the broader shift in Republican politics across the country, away from urban power brokers and toward a rural base that demands fealty to a far-right agenda aligned with Mr. Trump.

For Mr. Bailey, the proposal to excise Chicago, which he called “a hellhole” during a televised debate last month, encapsulates the grievances long felt across rural Central and Southern Illinois — places culturally far afield and long resentful of the politically dominant big city.

“The rest of the 90 percent of the land mass is not real happy about how 10 percent of the land mass is directing things,” Mr. Bailey said in an interview aboard his campaign bus outside a bar in Green Valley, a village of 700 people south of Peoria. “A large amount of people outside of that 10 percent don’t have a voice, and that’s a problem.” That pitch has resonated with the conservative voters flocking to Mr. Bailey, who seemed to compare Mr. Irvin to Satan during a Facebook Live monologue in February.

Everything that we pay and do supports Chicago,” said Pam Page, a security analyst at State Farm Insurance from McLean, Ill., who came to see Mr. Bailey in Lincoln. “Downstate just never seems to get any of the perks or any of the kickbacks.”

The onslaught of Democratic television advertising attacking Mr. Irvin and trying to elevate Mr. Bailey has frustrated the Aurora mayor, whose campaign was conceived of and funded by the same team of Republicans who helped elect social moderates like Mark Kirk to the Senate in 2010and Bruce Rauner as governor in 2014. Their recipe: In strong Republican years, find moderate candidates who can win over voters in Chicago’s suburbs — and spend a ton of money…

Kenneth Griffin, the Chicago billionaire hedge fund founder who is the chief benefactor for Illinois Republicans, gave $50 million to Mr. Irvin for the primary alone and pledged to spend more for him in the general election. Mr. Griffin, the state’s richest man, will not support any other Republican in the race against Mr. Pritzker, according to his spokesman, Zia Ahmed. Mr. Griffin announced last week that his hedge fund and trading firm would relocate to Miami…

Mr. Pritzker said that ads emphasizing Mr. Bailey’s conservative credentials had the same message he plans to use in the general election. He said he was not afraid of running against Mr. Irvin or of the millions Mr. Griffin would spend on his campaign. “It’s a mess over there,” Mr. Pritzker said in an interview on Friday. “They’re all anti-choice. Literally, you can go down the list of things that I think really matter to people across the state. And, you know, they’re all terrible. So, I’ll take any one of them and I’ll beat them.” […] - NY Times

Sunday, June 26, 2022

"When the Supreme Court directs people to elected officials to protect constitutional rights, while gutting and spitting on the right to vote through an unrelenting attack on the Voting Rights Act, our democracy is in acute crisis"


On Friday, June 24, an extremist majority of the U.S. Supreme Court overruled more than 50 years of legal precedent, taking away a previously recognized fundamental right for the first time in the court's history. In doing so, it unleashed the full force of a regressive, coordinated state-by -state attack on the already perilously eroded right to access an abortion, on women's rights, the human right to bodily autonomy, privacy, and control over our own lives and dignity, and to life-saving healthcare and freedoms. 

We are not sounding a new alarm. The nation's 140 million poor and low-income people, including 74 million women and girls, have been declaring this emergency in the face of an all-out-attack in courts and extremist legislatures across this country, particularly in the South. 

The immediate and long-term impact of this decision in Dobbs v. Jackson will be disproportionately felt by poor women, women of color, transgender, and gender non-confirming people, all of whom already face increased healthcare disparities and economic insecurity. In over 20 states today, women have lost or are likely to lose the right to control their bodies and reproductive health.

In 13 states, abortion will be banned within 30 days, as "trigger bans" designed to take effect as soon as Roe was overturned are already in place [1]. In five states, courts have recently struck down legislation banning abortion; the Dobbs' decision means that legislation will likely take effect in mere weeks or months [2]. In another 10 states, the Washington Post has declared that "the fate of abortion rights remains uncertain" [3]. 

Even before this decision, states with more restrictive abortion laws had higher maternal mortality and infant mortality rates. Without adequate and universal healthcare available to all women, we can expect these disparities to climb even higher: experts are predicting at least a 21% increase in pregnancy-related deaths.

Once again, poor and low-income women, especially in the South and in states that did not expand Medicaid, raise the minimum wage, or otherwise enact laws and policies that ensure we can thrive outside the womb, will be hit first and worst by this decision. 

We understand Dobbs to be a watershed attack. It will come to be known as an infamous consolidation of an unrelenting extremist assault on this country's gains for equality and justice. Indeed, Justice Alito's comparison between Plessy v. Ferguson and Roe v. Wade is an audacious abomination of this country's legal history.

While Plessy was a racist restriction of the rights we are entitled to, Roe was an historic expansion of those rights. The parallel historical legal precedent to Dobbs is Dred Scott v. Sanford, which asserted that slaves born in this country had no rights that white men—and white supremacist systems of power—were bound to respect. This is the situation facing poor and low-income women, who account for most of the people who will be impacted by restrictions on abortion access, and will thereby suffer its most grievous consequences. 

Let us be clear, however, that the impact of Dobbs is not limited to these women or anyone whose health, security, and privacy are at greater risk because of this decision. They are just the frontlines of a broad-based assault on privacy that will impact how and when we decide to have children, who we can be in a relationship with and marry, how we raise our children, and how we die.

Until this is rectified, the legal justification for our ability to have a stake in these life and death decisions no longer exists. It also means that the legal basis for protections from government or corporate intrusions on our privacy through surveillance, data mining, and making our private information public is also gone. 

In fact, Dobbs puts at risk any rights that were not already in place more than 150 years ago when the 14th Amendment was ratified. The ultimate consequences of the court's decision to break from settled jurisprudence, the commands of the U.S. Constitution, and all legal norms reveal again an emergency in the highest court and federal recognition of equal protection under the law.

When the Supreme Court directs people to elected officials to protect constitutional rights, while gutting and spitting on the right to vote through an unrelenting attack on the Voting Rights Act, our democracy is in acute crisis.  

This decision—in concert with a host of inconsistent, constitutionally indefensible, and regressive jurisprudence from the Court targeting voting rights protections, our safety from gun violence, the rights of immigrants, housing, public health, and protections from police violence and the coercive power of the criminal legal system—further confirms what the Poor People's Campaign has already declared: the current U.S. Supreme Court is not a constitutionally legitimate body. 

Instead, the majority of this court is wielding authority stolen from the American people to implement an extremist political agenda that lies outside the Constitution. If the Supreme Court were truly concerned about the rights of people, it would use the full power of its position to make determinations required by our Constitution to protect against the rolling coup against democracy that has been gaining momentum across the country—unchecked by the courts or significant congressional action to guard against electoral subversion, voter suppression, and insurrection. The evidence before the American people today demonstrates that this Supreme Court, as it stands, appears to be in the opposite posture: captured by the same forces seeking to maneuver and erode the institutions of democracy. 

We also know that while the Supreme Court has great power, it is not the only power. We, too, have a power that can and will rise to this moment. Ours is the power of unity, forged across these attacks and lines of divisions, against the power structures, systems, laws, and policies that make life unlivable for 140 million people.

Just days ago, thousands upon thousands of people converged in our nation's capital for the Mass Poor People's and Low-Wage Workers' Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls. Hundreds of national organizations, labor unions, and faith denominations joined thousands of poor and low-income people, together under the broad banner of the Poor People's Campaign. 

Our response to this moment is to organize ourselves into a compelling force that will build the power to realize the rights and dignity of absolutely everybody. We will mobilize the most massive voter turnout among poor and low-income people in the history of the nation. We must vote in historic numbers for our ancestors, for our children, and for the generations to come. We must ensure that extremist members of Congress, in both houses, remain in the voting minority. 

Alongside this historic effort, we call on Congress to expeditiously and absolutely end the filibuster and take legislative action immediately to codify Roe v. Wade, ensure universal, single-payer healthcare, including the expansion of Medicaid in every state, and ensure the full protections of the Voting Rights Act in every election. We call on President Biden to take immediate action to guarantee reproductive freedoms and use the power of his executive authorities to unabashedly fight for the heart and soul of this country, especially the 140 million poor and low-income people. 

As Frederick Douglass said on the passage of the Dred Scott decision in 1857: "In one point of view, we, the abolitionists and colored people, should meet this decision, unlooked for and monstrous as it appears, in a cheerful spirit. This very attempt to blot out forever the hopes of an enslaved people may be one necessary link in the chain of events preparatory to the downfall and complete overthrow of the whole slave system. The whole history of the anti-slavery movement is studded with proof that all measures devised and executed with a view to ally and diminish the anti-slavery agitation, have only served to increase, intensify, and embolden that agitation."

This is not the time to step back; it's time to step up! Forward together, not one step back! 

1. The 13 states are Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

2. The five states are Alabama, Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and South Carolina.

3. Those 10 states are Montana, Arizona, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.


Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, and co-chair of the Poor People's Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. His books include: "The Third Reconstruction: How A Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear" (2016), "Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing" (2018) and "We Are Called to Be a Movement" (2020). Follow him on Twitter @RevDrBarber.

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis is co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. She is the author of "Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor" (2017).

Shailly Gupta Barnes is the Policy Director of the Poor People’s Campaign and the Kairos Center.

from Common Dreams