We have been witnessing the slow motion dismantling of so many of the rights and expectations that have been put in place during the past half century. The reiteration of the rights of Black Americans, women, the differently abled, those with various gender identities – all of that is under attack. And those attacks seem to be succeeding.
A bit of background is certainly in order. Beginning with the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the United States has embarked on an imperfect trajectory towards something resembling equity and justice for all Americans. The codification of civil rights for Black Americans – yet again – in the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision which affirmed that the right of women to choose what happens with their bodies is a constitutionally protected right, to affirmative action, to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the recognition of gender diversity as a matter of right and law all seemed to presage a progressive movement by a nation distinguished by its resistance to equity and justice.
What was happening under the public radar, but hiding in plain sight, has been a proto-conservative movement to undermine and overturn all of that progress using the lawful tools of elections, the courts and a certain skewed interpretation of the Constitution. Certainly a significant aspect of this movement has focused on the resistance to racial equity – but gender equity and the broad interpretation of rights for all have always been in the cross hairs as well.
The proto-conservative movement has paid particular attention to the electoral process. In doing so they have commandeered the state legislatures – Republicans control 30 state legislatures, Democrats control 18 – and the federal court system. Consider that in just four painful years Donald Trump appointed 226 right wing conservative federal judges to lifetime positions. This is contrasted with Barack Obama appointing 320 federal judges in eight years. And when the 320 appointees of George W. Bush are combined with the Trump appointments, one can see that the federal judiciary has shifted to the right in a very real fashion.
While the protoconservatives have kept their eye on the prize, the Democrats and progressives have engaged in ideological civil wars abandoning the good in search of the perfect. And a perfect example is the 2016 presidential election.
While it can be accepted as a given that Hillary Clinton did not run anything near a pitch perfect campaign, given that her opponent was A Buffoon Named Trump, her election should have been a given. Instead, due to the internecine battles between the Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, many Democrats and independents stayed home in November 2016 and as result gave the presidency to worst person ever to hold that office.
The moral victory of not electing Hillary Clinton was overwhelmed by the unconscious facilitation of the election of Donald Trump and all the disasters that have followed since January 20, 2017.
Clearly no victories are permanent. But while the right wing of the right wing is in the ascendancy, it is incumbent upon those who believe in a more equitable society and a more representative government to beginning doing the hard work of elections at the local, state and federal levels as well as focusing on the judiciary. It is also important to define the message of a progressive America by dispensing with self-immolating themes like “defund the police” and begin to more clearly articulate what an equitable society really looks like.
And most of all – it is important to realize that this struggle take more than weeks and months. If the commitment is not for years and decades, then the cause is already lost.
Each one of us have a choice to make.