Justice Anthony Kennedy announced this summer his retirement after 20 years of service on the United States Supreme Court. Known to be a swing vote, Kennedy represented our country’s growing social liberalism despite our often sexist and xenophobic past.
President Donald Trump’s proposed nominee for Kennedy’s seat on the court, Brett Kavanaugh, is an unsurprising pick by our commander-in-chief, but it is also a threatening appointment for our country. Kavanaugh, like Trump, is radically conservative in nearly every respect. According to The New York Times, Kavanaugh’s history favors the government and corporations, and he possesses socially conservative views on issues such as abortion, contraception, guns and LGBTQ+ rights. If Kennedy’s liberal swing vote on the court is replaced by Kavanaugh’s extreme conservatism, the court stands to drastically shift to the right, and decades of progress by the Supreme Court would be put in jeopardy.
Kavanaugh as a justice exemplifies what our Supreme Court is becoming: increasingly conservative and using the Constitution to justify discrimination against our own citizens. The significance and importance of the document is undeniable, but our schools are no longer segregated by law, women and African Americans have the right to vote and slavery has been outlawed for over 150 years. Likewise, guns are more powerful and accessible than was ever thought possible at the time the Constitution was written. The severity of gun problems in our country cannot be ignored on the basis of a document written in 1787. The writings of the Constitution can be upheld in some respects, but not others, and we cannot interpret it as if it were not written over 200 years ago.
Unlike most other public offices, Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life, and thus stay on the court long after the end of the presidential terms during which they are appointed. The Supreme Court should reflect our country and its current views on our Constitution. According to an NBC News poll, Kavanaugh’s approval rating is lower than any other Supreme Court Justice appointee since NBC began polling candidates for appointment in 2005.
Our country’s highest court rules on cases that impact the lives of American citizens and should provide precedents that protect Americans from unfair state or federal legislation. The Court’s constitutional intention is to be the apolitical balancing force of our government and to interpret our Constitution with the knowledge that we are not the same country we were in 1787. Kavanaugh’s appointment would further the growing politicalization of the court that undermines its constitutional purpose. The rulings that may follow his appointment could jeopardize the safety of LGBTQ+ individuals, curtail women’s access to safe abortion and make guns more accessible.
The irony of Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice is striking. If our own citizens cannot live without discrimination under the law and make their own decisions about their bodies, the so-called “land of the free” is far from free. Instead of protecting citizens, the Court would put them in danger. Placing politics aside, infringing upon the rights of American citizens is not only inhumane, but also un-American.
Contact Kirby Goodman at [email protected]