Kavanaugh clinches right-wing majority on the Supreme Court,
representing another step toward Republican domination
Bob Sheak, October 9, 2018
The dismaying significance of Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation as an Associate Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday, October 6, 2018, is that it further consolidates right-wing control of the court. But that’s only part of a larger story. Kavanaugh’s confirmation is another step in the unfolding eclipse of democracy, as all branches of the federal government have been already falling under the increasing influence of the Republican Party and their allies.
The Republican Party already controls the White House, both houses of the U.S. Congress, and the majority of state legislatures. It enjoys the massive support of the Koch Brothers network of billionaires, most corporations. industry trade associations, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Businesses. Trump has rallied tens of millions of most white Americans, especially white men, to his banner and they seem unperturbed by, for example, his unending lies, his disrespectful behavior and statements about women, his apparent gross misrepresentations about his personal wealth, his tax cuts favoring big corporations and the wealthy, his efforts to eliminate Obama’s Affordable Care Act with no concern about the access and affordability of health care for millions of vulnerable Americans. The Republican Party has in some states limited political opposition by using gerrymandering, accompanied by voter suppression laws, and, in some cases, have made it difficult for citizens to vote by reducing the number of voting places, limiting early voting opportunities, and keeping those with felony records (after they have served their time) off the voting rolls altogether. On this topic, see Zachary Roth’s book, The Great Suppression: Voting Rights, Corporate Cash, and the Conservative Assault on Democracy, or Ari Berman’s Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, or Anthony J. McGann, et.al., Gerrymandering in America: The House of Representatives, the Supreme Court, and the Future of Popular Sovereignty.
To top it off, they have the Supreme Court in their pocket – and for generations to come.
Agencies in the executive branch being reshaped in favor of right-wing interests
Before turning to the principal focus of this essay on the Supreme Court, there is another aspect of the Republican/Right-wing domination of the political system that is worth a few thoughts about the federal bureaucracy. Trump is using the presidency to appoint people to his cabinet and to authoritative positions in the agencies that make up the executive branch of the federal government who have no prior experience, no interest in what the agencies have and are accomplishing, and whose mandates are to reduce the budgets, programs, and personnel (e.g., by not filling vacancies) in these agencies.
In his new book, The Fifth Risk, award-winning journalist Michael Lewis documents that Trump and his appointees typically have no idea of and little interest in learning what the agencies do – or how their work is often of vital to the public interest. Their mission is ideological, that is, to cut budgets that do not serve their corporate and wealthy supporters and to do so without any interest in or understanding of the consequences. There has been a lot of media coverage of how the EPA has been affected as Scott Pruitt worked to eliminate environmental regulations and stifle any agency work related to climate change. But, as Lewis cogently argues, the problem is not limited to this agency. He examines in-depth some of the innovative and important programs going on in the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which, among other things, oversees the National Weather Service.
Take the Department of Energy, which has a yearly budget of $30 billion and about 110,000 employees, with responsibilities for maintaining and guarding the U.S. nuclear arsenal, providing inspectors internationally to ensure that nuclear-bomb materials do not get into the hands of terrorists, cleaning up the world historic mess left behind by the U.S. manufacture of 70,000 nuclear bombs in places like the Hanford site in the state of Washington, and developing programs to shape “Americans’ access to, and use of, energy.” Trump and his appointees have no interest in learning from the thousands of experienced and skilled people who work for this agency. If anything, they want less regulation of and more government support for fossil fuels, less support for renewables, more government money spent on “modern” nuclear weapons, a policy of selective intimidation toward countries like Iran and North Korea who have or could have nuclear weapons, and scorn of international efforts to deal with the threat of nuclear proliferation.
Here’s some revealing examples from Lewis’ book of just how diabolical the process is with respect to the Department of Energy. Two weeks after the election, Trump created a “Landing Team…. led by, and mostly consisted of, a man named Thomas Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, which, upon inspection, proved to be a Washington, DC, propaganda machine funded with millions of dollars from ExxonMobil and Koch Industries.” Lewis continues: “Pyle himself had served as a Koch Industries lobbyist and ran a business on the side writing editorials attacking the DOE’s attempt to reduce the dependence of the American Economy on carbon” (p. 38). Then Pyle was replaced by “a handful of young ideologues who called themselves “the Beachhead Team,” who mainly ran around insulting people and who believed “that everything that government does is stupid and band and the people in it are stupid and bad.” Finally, former Texas governor Rick Petty was picked and confirmed by the Senate to head the DOE. Lewis notes that at his confirmation hearing, “Perry confessed that when he called for its elimination [during his earlier presidential bid] he hadn’t actually known what the Department of Energy did – and he now regretted having said that it didn’t do anything worth doing” (p. 47). But Lewis wondered whether he knew anything now. Former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz told Lewis that Perry has spent only “minutes, not hours” with him to learn about the agency. A DOE staffer told Lewis in June 2017: “He’s never been briefed on a program – not a single one, which to me is shocking” (p. 48)
Before Kavanaugh – already a right-wing Supreme Court
The partisan thrust of the Supreme Court existed prior to Kavanaugh’s nomination and conformation. The editorial board of The New York Times offers a concise overview of how the Supreme Court was already a partisan, right-wing court even before Kavanaugh was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The title of the editorial: “Brett Kavanaugh Will Fit Right In at the Pro-Corporate Roberts Court” (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/22/opinion/brett/kavanaugh-supreme-court.html).
They make their main point in these words: “Under Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. the court has given big business a leg up on workers, unions, consumers and the environment — and will do so even more aggressively if the Senate confirms Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s choice to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy.” Well, as we now all know, Kavanaugh has been confirmed.
However, the Court was already a right-wing dominated, partisan court for some time. Indeed, this is undisputedly the case under the leadership of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. since 2005. Indeed, this was not always the case. There were a series of court decisions prior to Roberts ascendance to the court, mostly going back before Reagan, that supported the rights of workers, women, minorities, and the need for laws that protect the environment. There have been few such decisions during the Roberts’ court. Given the composition of the Supreme Court, such laws will most likely be further weakened or terminated in coming years.
The board makes it clear that the right-wing justices on the Roberts’ Court have done what they can to further strengthen corporate power and that the addition of Kavanaugh will cement this trend.
“Corporations won the power to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns in the 2010 Citizens United decision. The owners of businesses have earned the right to cite their personal religious beliefs to deprive workers of reproductive health care. At the same time, the justices have made it harder for employees and customers to sue big businesses by allowing corporations to require mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts people are forced to sign if they want jobs or want to buy goods and services. The court has also made it easier for polluters to get away with poisoning the air and water.”
The NYT editors point out that many such corporate-supportive decisions had been decided by “five conservative justices” who have “shown no restraint in rejecting judicial precedent and in substituting their own judgment for that of lawmakers.” Most recently, “public sector unions with contracts covering nearly seven million workers” were struck a severe blow to their continuing existence” in a 5-to-4 decision made in June 2018.The decision struck down “a unanimous 40-year-old decision that state governments and unions had long relied on.” The case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees “held that government workers covered by union contracts do not have to pay fees for collective bargaining expenses if they are not members.” While not directly involving businesses, the decision “will hurt all workers because benefits won by unions often establish benchmarks that help improve wages and working conditions even at companies without unions.”
Author Bill Blum offers some additional examples of the corporate bias of the Roberts’ court.
“…the Roberts court not only opened the floodgates to corporate money in elections [via the Citizens’ United Decision] but time and again has acted to shield companies from liability for defective and dangerous products (Reigel v. Medtronic Inc.), and reduce the financial risks of environmental pollution (Baker v. Exxon). The court has also made it increasingly difficult for women and exploited minorities to bring anti-discrimination class actions (Ledbetter v. Goodyear), and undermined the power of organized labor (Know v. SEIU).”
Blum also refers to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota Law Review that “found that the Roberts court’s five conservatives rank among the nine most pro-business justices in the past 65 years.”
“The Roberts Court Protects the Powerful for a New Gilded Age”
This the title of an article by law professor Jedediah Purdy that also appeared in The New York Times (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/28/opinion/sunday/supreme-court-kennedy-roberts.html).
Purdy sees an increasingly conservative pattern in Supreme Court decisions in recent months and years that undermined unions, supported Texas’ gerrymandering, opened the gates to unlimited corporate campaign spending, reduced the reproductive rights of women, reduced access to Medicaid, reversed recent marriage-equality decisions, supported Trump’s Muslim immigration ban, and made it more difficult for workers to bring changers against employers for wage theft.
Take the example of unions. Purdy writes, “Under Chief Justice John Roberts, the court has consistently issued bold, partisan decisions that have been terrible for working people. Like the NYT editors, Purdy also refers to Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, decided on Wednesday [June 27, 2018].” In this decision, “the Supreme Court ruled “that public-sector unions may not charge nonmembers ‘agency fees’ for contract negotiation and other services that affect all employees in the same workplace, members and nonmembers alike.” Justice Elena Kagan dissented in this decision, arguing that it “allowed employees to opt out of paying union fees while getting the benefits of representation risks starving the unions of resources, leading to ineffectiveness and collapse. Moreover, knifing unions at a time of intense controversy over state austerity budgets and widespread teachers’ strikes suggests, as Justice Kagan wrote, that the court ‘wanted to pick the winning side’ in these fights by ‘weaponizing the First Amendment [free speech], in a way that unleashes judges, now and in the future, to intervene in economic and regulatory policy.’”
Here are other examples from Purdy’s article.
Regarding “wage theft,” Purdy refers to a court ruling in Epic Systems v. Lewis in which “employees claiming wage theft – their employers trimmed paychecks by undercounting hours – could be forced to bring their complaints individually to private arbitrators hired by their employers, rather than bring a class action in court.”
Regarding mandatory arbitration as a way of stifling labor – “In 1992, as the Supreme Court began to allow arbitration to enter employment relationships, only 2 percent of non-unionized companies-imposed arbitration on their workers. Today the figure is 54 percent and sure to grow because it conveniently ties the hands of disgruntled or mistreated workers. These cases have replaced a majority of employees’ legal protections with a system of private agreements that replicates the unequal bargaining power of workers and companies. Arbitration agreements will become only more important as “gig” employers such as Uber devise their contracts to get around labor law.”
Regarding health care: “In 2012, in its first ruling on the Affordable Care Act, the court hamstrung Congress’s expansion of Medicaid eligibility from the very poor to the working poor by effectively making expanded coverage optional for states. About 2.2 million people are uninsured as a result, nearly 90 percent of them in Southern states whose economies have always relied on low-cost labor. About half of those left out of the Medicaid expansion are black or Hispanic.”
Regarding campaign contributions: “The 1970s court also returned to its old habit of dressing economic power in constitutional principle. The dominance of the very rich in American politics is often attributed to the Citizens United decision of 2010, but that case only amplified a 1976 opinion, Buckley v. Valeo, in which the court shredded post-Watergate campaign-finance regulation and announced that private individuals could spend unlimited sums on candidates (including themselves). When the Roberts court used the First Amendment to protect corporate (and union) political spending in Citizens United, it was extending a longer-running trend. This is part of what Justice Kagan means when she observes that the conservative majority is weaponizing the First Amendment.”
If Purdy has his way, the court would be making very different decisions that it has. He writes: “we need campaign-finance laws that limit the influence of wealth and treat citizens as equals. We need a labor law that helps workers organize in new kinds of workplaces, such as home health care and the gig economy. We need antitrust law that can wrestle with the new quasi-monopoly power of platform-based companies such as Amazon and Facebook. We need forms of social caretaking and security that are even stronger and more universal than Obamacare.”
Kavanaugh is replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy – no moderate
Andrew Cohen, a senior editor at The Marshall Project and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, makes the case that most – not all – of the decisions made by Justice Anthony Kennedy were with the four conservatives justices (https://newrepublic.com/article/149449/anthony-kennedy-no-moderate).
Cohen reminds us that Kennedy was nominated by President Reagan, then confirmed by the Senate, in 1988. Ideologically, Cohen says, Kennedy could only be considered “moderate” when contrasted “to conservative flamethrowers like Thomas, Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Neil Gorsuch.” Kennedy did vote with the liberals on the court occasionally, in deciding against capital punishment where the defendants had intellectual disabilities or where a juvenile had committed the homicide. Kennedy also supported same-sex marriage and, to quote Cohen, “has largely hewed to the Court’s precedent in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, which updated and modernized the constitutional right to an abortion first announced in Roe v. Wade.” All these precedents are now likely to be challenged and overturned with the addition of Kavanaugh to the court.
Mostly, however, Kennedy’s conservative leanings came to the fore in most of the decisions he cast. Cohen gives some relatively recent examples, starting in 2006.
“In 2010, Kennedy sided with his fellow conservatives and moneyed interests in Citizens United v. F.E.C, a case in which the Court for the first time recognized that political spending was a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. Justice Kennedy wrote that decision, equating corporations with people, and the grim effects of it on our politics are everywhere around us: from the dark money flowing into campaigns around the country, to the extension of “corporate” rights into other areas of constitutional law.
“In areas like religious freedom, Kennedy earlier this month sided, gingerly, against a gay couple who were discriminated against by a Colorado baker who refused to bake them a same-sex marriage wedding cake. Yes, the decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v.Colorado Civil Rights Commission is an obvious compromise and not the blow that religious activists had hoped it would be; but when you pair it with the Court’s ruling in the Burwell v. Hobby Lobby case, in which Kennedy again sided with his conservative colleagues, it’s not hard to see where this area of the law is heading. It’s headed sharply to the right, at a pace that now will accelerate in Kennedy’s absence.
“So, too, will the partisan push for voter suppression accelerate. Five year ago, Kennedy sided with his fellow Court conservatives in Shelby County v. Holder, a case that gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. Countless citizens either already have been or soon will be disenfranchised as a result of that ruling, one of the worst in the court’s long history. Nothing Kennedy has done since 2013 has suggested he has any remorse or regret over how Republican lawmakers around the country reacted to that ruling. Not for nothing, Kennedy also helped spur modern-day voter suppression when he signed onto a 2008 ruling out of Indiana, Crawford v. Marion County, which endorsed voter ID laws now used by Republicans to disenfranchise the poor, the elderly, students, and minority voters.
“And don’t forget the guns. Kennedy has voted with the majority in the two seminal gun rights cases of our time. In District of Columbia v. Heller he signed onto Justice Antonin Scalia’s decision, recognizing for the first time a personal right to bear arms under the Second Amendment. And in McDonald v. Chicago he voted to apply that newly-recognized Second Amendment right to state laws through the Fourteenth Amendment. In each instance, the vote was 5–4; in each case, Kennedy voted with the gun lobby and for a view of gun rights that Justice Warren Burger, a Nixon appointee, once called “one of the greatest pieces of fraud” he had seen infect the courts.
“He was a consistent voter for employers over employees, for corporations over consumers, and against unions—right down to one of his final votes in the public sector employee union case the Court decided Wednesday in another 5-4 vote in which the conservatives prevailed. He was also a regular voter for police and prosecutors over criminal suspects or defendants, even though he was troubled by prison overcrowding and the persistent overuse of solitary confinement. Right down to last week, in the Fourth Amendment case titled Carpenter v. United States, he was an ardent supporter of government surveillance at the expense of individual privacy rights.
“For a judge who has held so many key cases in the palm of his hand over the past decade, for someone perceived by so many as having so much power to shape the course of American law and history, he may have saved his lamest response for last. In Trump v. Hawaii, with religious and racial discrimination rife, all he could muster was a vote for the Trump administration’s travel ban and a mealy-mouth concurrence in which he implored federal officials—who repeatedly have ignored the Constitution—not to ignore the Constitution. He ended thus with a whimper, unwilling to check the implementation of the Trump administration’s bigotry into policy and practice.”
“a corporation masquerading as a judge”
Ralph Nader describes Kavanaugh in unqualified terms as “a corporation masquerading as a judge” (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/09/06/stop-brett-kavanaugh-corporation-masquerading-judge). He writes: “With Kavanaugh, it is all about siding with corporations over workers, consumers, patients, motorists, the poor, minority voters, and beleaguered communities.” When his overall judicial record is considered, “Kavanaugh could be the most corporate judge in modern American history.” Nader refers to “[t]wo meticulous reports on his judicial decisions, one by the Alliance for Justice (AFJ) and one by Public Citizen demonstrate that for him it’s all about corporations uber alles.”
The AFJ finds that “Kavanaugh has repeatedly ruled against efforts to combat climate change and the regulation of greenhouse gases. He also repeatedly ruled against protections for clean air. He has repeatedly sided with the wealthy and the powerful over all Americans. He has fought consumer protections in the areas of automobile safety, financial services, and a free and open internet. Kavanaugh has also repeatedly ruled against workers, workplace protections and safety regulations.”
Public Citizen’s report provides some details on Kavanaugh’s judicial record, namely, that he “ruled 15 times against worker rights, 2 times for worker rights. On environmental protection, he ruled 11 times for business interests and 2 times for the public’s interest. On consumer and regulatory cases, he ruled 18 times for businesses and 4 times for consumer protection interests. In the area of antitrust or anti-monopoly, he ruled 2 times for the corporations and zero times for market competition.”
Getting him confirmed quickly
Legal expert Marjorie Cohn identifies some of the reasons why the GOP was so eager to confirm Kavanaugh (https://truthout.org/articles/five-reasons-why-the-gop-is-rushing-to-confirm-kavanaugh). She argues that it was principally because they wanted him confirmed before the court’s new term begins in October. She also agrees that the upcoming mid-term elections in which Democrats had an outside chance of taking control of the Senate was a consideration. But, she contends, the press for a decision on Kavanaugh’s nomination to the court has more to do with the cases on the Supreme Court’s docket. Specifically, “Republicans are hoping to ensure the outcome of several hot-button cases, including those involving double jeopardy, immigration, age discrimination and the Endangered Species Act.” She continues: “Moreover, there is the possibility that the Supreme Court could also decide to take up additional cases affecting gerrymandering, gay and transgender rights, and the separation of church and state.”
Very importantly, there is a pending case involving arcane provisions in the Constitution regarding “double jeopardy” that has relevance for President Trump personal legal situation and with his authority to pardon others or even himself in instances where they are found guilty in federal court.
Cohn writes: “Potentially most consequential for Trump is the case of Gamble v. US, which could affect his ability to pardon his associates, and even himself. On June 4, 2018, Trump tweeted, ‘I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.’
“The pardon power, located in Article II, section 2 of the Constitution, says, “The president … shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.” It limits the president’s pardon power to federal offenses.
“In Gamble v. US, the justices will decide whether prosecuting a person in both state and federal courts for the same crime violates the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, ‘No person shall … be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb …’
What’s at stake for Trump? “If the Court follows its long-standing precedent, Trump could exercise his pardon power in federal proceedings but not in subsequent state proceedings for the same offense. Even if Trump were to pardon Paul Manafort, who was convicted of fraud in federal court, New York and Virginia state prosecutors could still bring charges against him.” And if Trump is ever “charged in a federal prosecution and he endeavored to pardon himself, the state of New York could then file criminal charges against him regarding the same matter.” Under such circumstances, as the law now stands, “Trump would be powerless to pardon himself in the state case.” However, now with Kavanaugh and a solid right-wing court, the justices are poised to “narrow the scope of the Double Jeopardy Clause” in way to reduce the right of state authorities to file criminal charges.
Kavanaugh to the rescue. Cohn notes that “Kavanaugh has said a sitting president should not be ‘distracted’ by having to answer to a civil or criminal case, notwithstanding the Court’s ruling in Clinton v. Jones. He has demonstrated extreme deference to presidential power and would likely vote to limit the criminal exposure of Trump and his associates.”
Cohn gives four other examples of how Kavanaugh’s ascension to the Supreme Court will advance right-wing causes. On immigrants’ rights, the court is going to decide “in Nielson v. Preap whether the government can detain immigrants for the duration of their deportation proceedings, without a hearing, because they have past criminal records.” We can expect that Kavanaugh will support the government’s right to detain immigrants in these situations. Why? According to Cohn, “Kavanaugh’s record demonstrates contempt” for the rights of immigrants.
There are other pending cases before the Supreme Court regarding age discrimination, the endangered species act, gerrymandering and more. Kavanaugh’s record on the federal bench indicates that he “favor employers over employees,” favors economic development over wildlife habitats, and favors restrictions or additional requirements for voting rather than fewer.
In her conclusion, Cohn writes: “Republicans know that Kavanaugh would provide a reliable vote against immigrants, workers, voters, and gay and transgender people. He would deliver a dependable vote for employers, private property and church-state bonding. The GOP can also rest assured that Kavanaugh would do his best to immunize Trump from criminal liability and enable him to continue their mean-spirited, right-wing agenda.”
Corporate-funded lobbyists pressed for Kavanaugh’s confirmation
In a report for The Intercept, Lee Fang reports on a wave of lobbying that pressed for the Senate confirmation of Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court (https://theintercept.com/2018/10/04/brett-kavanuagh-supreme-court-confirmation-corporate-regulations).
According to Fang’s research, “Business groups with interests before the U.S. Supreme Court have orchestrated a multifaceted campaign to pressure the Senate to swiftly confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the nation’s highest court. The advocacy reaches across the influence economy of Washington, D.C., with the largest corporate lobbying groups and billionaires working in concert with Republican operatives to elevate Kavanaugh to a lifetime posting atop the judiciary.
“Few businesses, however, have stamped their names on the effort. Most major corporations and wealthy donors are instead using 501(c) nonprofit groups that do not require donor transparency to air upward of $15 million in reported advertising spending in order to convince the public to support Kavanaugh’s nomination. Other conservative groups contributing to the ad war have not disclosed how much they are spending, likely bringing the total much higher.
“Among the groups publicly campaigning for Kavanaugh to be confirmed are the giants of pro-business lobbying — organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Koch brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity. Lesser-known, business-funded political groups, such as the Republican Attorneys General Association, are also spearheading campaigns. Meanwhile, a host of industry groups — funded by many of the same corporate interests that fund the larger lobbying organizations — are eagerly waiting for Kavanaugh to be elevated and rule on cases that will affect their businesses.
What is Kavanaugh’s appeal?
Fang gives us the answer. “Kavanaugh has ruled against consumer rights, against labor organizers, and against class action lawsuits — a record that places him squarely in the Fortune 500’s corner. The Constitutional Accountability Center, after analyzing key rulings on workers rights, corporate regulations, and multinational corporate liability, found that Kavanaugh “has sided with corporate and business interests even when consumers, workers, and regulatory agencies had the text of the law and precedent on their side.” Similarly, the progressive consumer rights group Public Citizen analyzed Kavanaugh’s decisions and found that the judge sided with big business in 76 percent of cases brought before him in the D.C. circuit.
“Likewise with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest pro-business lobbying federation in the country, which represents firms such as Dow Chemical, Prudential, ExxonMobil, and Goldman Sachs. The group has long challenged environmental and financial regulations on the basis that regulators acted beyond the limits of statutory authority. The powerful lobby announced in August that it would mobilize support for Kavanaugh, claiming it would score support for Kavanaugh as a “key vote” in evaluating members of Congress. The Chamber spends tens of millions of dollars every election cycle against lawmakers who cross them on major votes.”
What’s the upshot?
We don’t have to guess about the role Brett Kavanaugh will play on the already highly partisan Supreme Court. If there is hope for progressive change, it will not come from, or be facilitated by, this court (https://www.thenation.com/article/democrats-must-stop-pretending-the-court-apolitical).
The future rests on whether there are forces abroad at all levels of the society, from communities, to states and regions, to nationwide, that can be mobilized and unified around democratic, egalitarian, and environmentally sustainable values and goals. It’s not yet clear how this could happen. The odds do not appear very good. And yet the next chapters of our national story have yet to be written. The door on meaningful change has not been closed. And it’s awesome at times when we hear inspiring voices of what could be coming from many thousands of places across our land.