Divided We Fall

Four more years of Donald Trump in the White House backed by conservative appellate judges and a lopsided right-wing Supreme Court and no one will recognize America.

A politicized judiciary heavily tilted to the right will threaten all of the inch-by-inch progress made over the years in human and civil rights. It will put at risk such stalwarts as Social Security and Medicare because conservatives are bent on shrinking government.

Consider what is happening now, before Election Day, with Trump-inspired nonsense about mail-in balloting leading to voter fraud and attempts, some successful, to cut short deadlines for the receipt and counting of ballots.

More than 300 lawsuits have been filed in 44 states, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

Liberals are conservatives’ enemy, branded as socialists, and it would make compromise more difficult than it is now, if not impossible, to achieve. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell proved that, refusing to allow hearings for President Barack Obama’s nominations for judgeships and ramming through Amy Coney Barrett for a Supreme Court seat days before a presidential election though he denied the same courtesy to a Democratic president.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer warned him before Barrett was confirmed by the Upper Chamber that what goes around, comes around.

“You may win this vote and Amy Coney Barrett may become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court,” he said. “But you will never, never get your credibility back. And the next time the American people give Democrats a majority in this chamber, you will have forfeited the right to tell us how to run that majority.”

Tuesday’s may be the most fraught presidential election since the 2000 Florida hanging chads contest between Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush, which the Supreme Court gave to Bush. Or even going back to 1876 when the GOP’s Rutherford B. Hayes won the White House after agreeing to Democratic demands to withdraw troops from the South, ending Reconstruction.

But at a time when living in America is like being in two different countries, it is the right-wing that enjoys minority rule even though Democrats seized more of the popular vote for president in 2016 by 2.9 million. A 6-3 Supreme Court conservative majority will make it worse.

Conservative Republican presidents have been a disaster: Richard M. Nixon with Watergate; Ronald Reagan and his phony trickle-down economic theory that never trickled down to the working class, union busting, tax cuts for the wealthy, tax hikes on low-income Americans and deregulation.

Then George W. Bush and his war on Iraq launched on the false pretense of its possession of weapons of mass destruction. Enter Trump, by far the worst president in American history. If he is re-elected, and it’s possible, our country is in for some very nasty times.

Just look at what’s facing us now with a Supreme Court that no longer has a potential swing vote in Chief Justice John Roberts because of the conservative stranglehold.

For starters, Barrett was sped through the Senate so she will be available if Trump loses the election and, as has been his lifelong playbook, takes his grievance to the courts and the case winds up with the Supremes.

“This day will long be remembered as the moment when the Republicans tore up their own rules to ignore the will of the American people and pack the Supreme Court with right-wing ideologues who will compromise Americans’ rights and civil liberties,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said in a statement after Barrett was confirmed.

Robert Reich, Obama’s labor secretary who said he favors expanding the Supreme Court to rebalance it and abolishing the obsolete Electoral College, noted in a Facebook post that five of the last nine high court justices were nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote.

The Supreme Court is not the only one that has been stacked with conservatives.

While McConnell held up about 100 of Obama’s nominations to lower federal courts – which lying Trump twisted to say the Democrat left vacancies on those courts – the Times said the Kentucky senator in four years pushed through 162 district court judges and 53 judges for the appeals courts.

So many judicial conservatives to contend with amid the Republican challenge to the Affordable Care Act and potential cases against Roe v. Wade, same-sex marriage and the status of would-be immigrants, asylum seekers and the more immediate issue of counting mail-in ballots in the battlegrounds of Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

If Joe Biden becomes president, there surely will be Republican court challenges to his plans for confronting climate change, which, like the pandemic, they deny as a hoax to be ignored.

Seth Meyers Tuesday night: “During a swearing-in ceremony for Judge Amy Coney Barrett last night at the White House, President Trump said, quote, ‘This is a momentous day for America, for the United States Constitution, and for the fair and impartial rule of law.’ Momentous in that it’s the day for all of those things.”

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.