How You Can Honor RBG and Save America
The loss of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is monumental. She was a champion of human rights, a groundbreaking attorney, an exceptional jurist, and a bright light of hope and inspiration in an increasingly dark time. May she rest in peace and in power. And may we honor her memory and the great debt we owe her, this octogenarian woman who would not stop working for us during this most dire and treacherous time for our country, by doing everything we can, as effectively as possible, to upend the knee on the throat of our democracy, our rights, and our human dignity. But what, exactly, is the most effective thing we can do?
Here’s what it isn’t: expending our energy fighting to keep the open seat on the Supreme Court unfilled until after the election. Galling and terrifying as it is to see the Notorious RBG replaced by an impeached president’s third appointment in four years, in the wake of McConnell’s theft of Obama’s third appointment in eight years, this is not the hill to die on. Not because it isn’t gravely important — it undeniably is. Amy Coney Barrett is an extreme religious conservative. She will likely arrive in time to hear yet another case aiming to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and this time, there will be no swing vote to save it. Any of the dozens of challenges to Roe v. Wade will soon enough rise again to the Court, and Roe will die with her vote. These are not minor defeats; they are catastrophic, and they’re just the beginning. We may as well call this the Scalia Court, because it will truly be made in his image.
So why not fight her confirmation with everything we’ve got? The answer is as simple as it is discouraging: there is just not much we can do about it. McConnell and Trump will twist arms to fill this seat in a blitzkrieg of activity and dishonest messaging regardless of public opinion or outcry. Republican Senators have demonstrated their craven disregard for the good of the country many times over, and there is no reason to expect that this time will be different. The whole game, for Republicans, has been tax cuts and ultra-conservative judges. Flipping a liberal Supreme Court seat, and ensuring a justice who will not surprise them by occasionally voting with the liberal justices, is the biggest prize of all, and they will not be denied. (Mitt Romney’s gutless and predictable announcement that he will vote for a qualified judge nominated by this impeached President, whom he voted to remove from office for abuse of power, should make that very clear.)
It’s also important to remember that even if we were to somehow keep Barrett from being confirmed before the election, if Trump wins, she’ll be confirmed anyway; furthermore, if we were to successfully deny this nomination, or deal it a prolonged and bitter attack, there’s no telling how much higher it might drive Republican turnout at the polls. And voter turnout is our battle to win.
If we want to honor Justice Ginsburg’s work and memory, if we want to save and extend her legacy, there is only one thing we have the power to do that is wholly in our control: we need to end the twin nightmares that have been the Trump Administration and the McConnell Senate majority and elect Democrats to the White House and the Senate, while keeping the majority in the House. We may not have much power to influence what happens with the Supreme Court right now, but we do have the power to influence this country’s path forward. That power lives in one place: the ballot. We must dedicate ourselves, with every minute and every ounce of energy we can muster, to turning out the most Democratic voters possible, especially in swing states, in the 2020 election.
We know that it will not be easy. Trump, Barr, McConnell, and Republican state officials are doing absolutely everything they can to steal the election. Yet again, they are engaging in a massive program of voter suppression through restrictive voter ID requirements, polling place closures in predominantly Democratic-voting areas, and purges of predominantly Democratic voters from the rolls. Trump is fostering voter intimidation, calling for supporters to patrol polling places as “poll watchers” and stating his intention to send police and sheriffs to polling places. He has railed against fraudulent mail-in voting, another claim lacking evidence, and significantly disrupted mail service to suppress COVID-19-era voting. And lest we forget, the FBI, CIA, and Senate Judiciary Committee have issued reports showing that Russia is again interfering in the election, yet Mitch McConnell refused to bring an election-security funding bill to a vote until just a few days ago, and has continued to refuse to take additional security measures. Trump has called all such confirmations of Russian interference a hoax; meanwhile, his lawyer Rudolph Guiliani has just recently met with Russian agents in an effort to discredit Joe Biden.
Those of us who love this country, not just its flag, and who recognize that we have never reached our high founding ideals but are determined to fight for them, cannot let Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s legacy, this election, our country as we’ve known it, or the country we dream it can be, die at the hands of authoritarian con-men and thieves. If we vote in overwhelming numbers, the measures they are taking will fail. We must summon every drop of energy we have and devote it all to winning this election. If we fail, we lose everything — not only a seat on the Supreme Court.
Once we’ve won? Then the rebuilding can begin. Then, we can right the wrong of Trump and McConnell’s Supreme Court theft by demanding an end to the filibuster, demanding statehood for DC and Puerto Rico, and demanding an expanded Court or another means of mitigating the impact of McConnell’s abuse of power. Once we’ve won, we will begin the process of undoing the damage Trump, Barr, and McConnell have wrought on the people of this country and on the world. We must demand an immediate end to all of Trump’s disastrous, cruel, racist, deadly policies around immigration and the freedom of speech and assembly. We must demand racial justice, criminal justice, economic justice, labor justice, and electoral justice. We must demand health care as a guaranteed human right, a huge spate of anti-corruption measures, and more. Crucially, we must roll back Trump’s assault on the environment and demand bold climate action sufficient to meet the catastrophic toll that the warming planet will continue to take. And yes, we must demand investigations and accountability for the avalanche of crimes perpetrated on the American people by Trump and Congressional Republicans, starting with an unfettered investigation into Russia’s attacks on our democracy. There is so much damage to repair. There are so many broken lives to lift up.
The Democrats in power, once they have it, are unlikely to be inclined to do all that is necessary. We will surely have to fight them, too. Democrats can be influenced to do what’s right, but they will only do so with a powerful wind at their backs. We are that power, yet if we take responsibility for only ourselves, against all of the means being used to suppress our vote, it won’t be enough. We must maximize voter turnout. There is no other way. If we want to begin reversing the damage done by Trump and McConnell, we have to convince unprecedented numbers of citizens to vote. We need a multitude to vote for Biden and for Democrats in Congress and in the states. We need to be the change. The time is now.
Take care of your own house: register to vote, and vote as early as possible and with absolute certainty that you’ve done everything correctly, especially if you are voting by mail. Help the young adults in your life do the same. Help their friends do the same. But that, by itself, is not enough.
You need to help get voters to the polls. Nothing is more important than a tidal wave of voters too great for voter suppression to defeat. Don’t leave it to others. YOU need to help get voters to the polls. If you can donate money to candidates directly or to affiliated organizations, do that too — as much as you can, targeted to the swing states and close Senate elections where it will have the most impact. But money is not enough, either. YOU need to help get voters to the polls. How? COVID-19 certainly makes it more challenging, but there is no time for laments. Fortunately, there are several organizations that are organizing phone banks and letter-writing parties to reach out to Democratic-leaning voters in swing states and implore them to exercise their right to vote. Get on the phone. Write the letters. It is up to you, but don’t worry — it is up to all of us. If we have a democracy worth keeping, and if we’re democratic citizens worthy of keeping it, then this is the moment for us to flex the strength of our superior numbers — of our underrepresented majority — like never before.
If thousands of us do everything we can between now and November 3, we will overwhelm the Republican and Russian attempts to deliver Trump and McConnell victories. We will reclaim our country and undertake the challenge of pushing it, finally, to live up to its highest ideals. Let’s go.
There are several ways to work virtually for massive Democratic turnout. Pick one or two, or check them out to see which seems best for you. Commit to an hour a day if you can, or as close to that as possible, right through to the election. Schedule it in your calendar, if that’s a thing you do. Join with a friend with whom you pledge to keep each other accountable. Let’s all know on November 3 that we did everything we could.
Fair Fight 2020 — Founded by 2018 Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. According to its website, “engagement will vary by state.” Sign up to see how you can get involved. This organization, and perhaps its volunteer opportunities, is focused more than the others on assuring that voters who intend to vote will be able to and that their votes will count. (In 2018, GA Secretary of State Brian Kemp purged over 500,000 voters from the rolls; over 100,000 were determined later to have been improper; Kemp, who was also the Republican candidate for governor, beat Abrams by about 55,000 votes. Stacey Abrams has some skin in this game.)
Mobilize to Win — A project of MoveOn that makes you a Vote Mobilizer and connects you to other voters across key states to support voting among yourselves and your friends and family. A good option for a more social experience.
NextGen America — Founded by 2020 presidential candidate Tom Steyer, this organization specifically reaches out to young voters. If you are one, want to connect to some, or just recognize the huge numbers young voters can turn out, this is a great place to start. (Click on the Events option in the menu, or sign up to volunteer.)
Swing Left — A robust, well-organized group focused on flipping swing states. Offers phone banking, hosting virtual fundraisers and letter-writing parties, connections to local groups if you want to get involved in your own community, and ways for young people to connect with college students.
Turnout2020 — Connects volunteers to individual events such as phone banking for specific areas, organizing workshops, and volunteer training.
Vote Forward — Send letters to voters.
Vote Save America —Connects volunteers to other organizations’ efforts around the country. Allows you to choose event by event.