On Wednesday two seemingly unrelated events got me thinking about where we are right now as a people.
Anna Basallaje our fabulous Chief Operating Officer and I were lamenting the cruelty of the government shut down. I remarked that I thought that the feckless GOP would continue supporting Trump and would probably go along with this autocratic nonsense of declaring a national emergency. This will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court and as I count votes, the only chance we have of resisting this further slide towards a dictatorship is if Chief Justice John Roberts votes with the progressive wing of the Court. (Thoughts and prayers for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Rachel Maddow this week interviewed a surgeon who works closely with RBG’s surgeon who said that all will be well and not to worry. Phew.)
In our conversation I mentioned that the theft of the 2000 election led to the appointments and confirmations of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alioto. Remember that Katharine Harris and the GOP in Florida removed scores of Black folks from the voting rolls thus making the election much closer than it really was. Senator Mitch McConnell stole a seat from President Obama, which resulted in Justice Neil Gorsuch. Misogyny and the ineptitude of the FBI led to Justice Brett Kavanaugh, and there you have it.
The second event that got me thinking was inadvertently precipitated by my friend Jim Brosnahan who regularly gathers attorney and law professors together for a great meal prepared by Judge Brosnahan followed by spirited discussions of various legal issues. The topic for February is Chief Justice John Marshall. Each of us is to bring a fact about Marshall.
The Equal Justice Society is observing the 400th anniversary of the first captive Africans setting foot in the U.S. thus beginning slavery. I wanted to see where Marshall stood on the enslavement of his fellow human beings. By the time I finished doing my lightweight research, I was in tears. Marshall was a straight up white supremacist chiding the French for their foolish idea that emancipation should come immediately.
Marshall said that the only equality came at the grave. He also use captured Africans to settle a debt. I was in tears because I know most attorneys hold Marshall in high regard. I have three African masks in my study and I often look at them and think that a descendant of kidnapped Africans is able to fight back against racism, yet I still cried painful tears.
I think of the disaster that is the Trump presidency and remember that he is in the WHITE house because of the electoral college–a system along with the Senate that was set up to appease the slave states.
I know that Russians discouraged Black folks from voting. I remember that Paul Manafort (he and I are the same age yet it is unlikely that I will spend the rest of my natural life in prison-just saying) was one of the architects of the Southern Strategy whereby the GOP sought to scare white folks and turned the South from blue to red.
I remember that John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh were part of the team that litigated Bush v Gore. I think that many Republican senators and their constituents gave short shrift to the tearful and compelling testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, giving us Justice Kavanaugh. I then think back to how Anita Hill was treated and not believed, giving us Justice Clarence Thomas.
Justice Roberts, Alioto, and Thomas all voted to gut the Voting Rights Act, as well as voting to allow tons of dark money to pollute the political process thus diluting the power of the people–particularly Black folks who had previously been protected by the VRA. Cause and effect. Cause and effect.
That having been said, women and Black people, Black women, Latinos and Native Americans, the Asian American Pacific Islander community, and progressive whites turned the tide towards sanity in the midterm elections. I cried tears of joy when I saw the 116th Congress getting sworn in last week. People who looked like me are holding real power. A recent article said that women over 60 are finally feeling our power. Speaker Pelosi makes that point emphatically.
Michelle Alexander wrote eloquently in The New York Times last year that we are NOT the resistance. Trump and his henchmen and henchwomen are trying to stop the progress that all of us are working to make a reality. Yes, there are days that make you just want to sit down and cry, but there are more days that make you want to HOLLA.
Stay strong. Onward.