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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Clinton’s Speech on U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies 2016 Stakes

On the eve of the Wisconsin Primary, Hillary Clinton has delivered what The Nation’s John Nichols has termed “the strongest speech of her campaign.” Clinton made important points which merit consideration from all voters, regardless of who they support at this juncture, particularly because the mainstream media is so distracted by the Trump sideshow. As Nichols writes,

Madison, Wisconsin–Hillary Clinton delivered the strongest speech of her 2016 campaign in Wisconsin this week, and the media barely noticed…In this absurd campaign season, when media outlets devote hours of time to arguments about which Republican candidate insulted which wife, about violent and irresponsible campaign aides, about whatever soap-opera scenario comes to mind, thoughtful discussions of issues get little attention. And deep and detailed discussions of issues get even less coverage.
Clinton’s speech on the importance of filling Supreme Court vacancies, and on the values and ideals that should guide judicial nominations, was a deep and detailed discussion of a fundamental responsibility of presidents. What she said impressed not just her own supporters, who gathered Monday to hear her speak on the University of Wisconsin campus, but also Wisconsinites who are undecided or inclined to vote for someone else in the state’s April 5 primary.

Nichols credits Sen. Sanders with taking the issue seriously, and expresses confidence that he would also nominate an “outstanding” justice to the high court. Sanders, notes Nichols, “has spoken well and wisely about the standards he would apply in doing so.”
As for Clinton, “a Yale Law School graduate, the author of scholarly articles on children and the law, a former law-school instructor and a former board chair of the Legal Services Corporation…When she speaks about the Supreme Court, she does so with insight and passion.” Nichols continues,

What was powerful was not just the Democratic contender’s recognition that “the Court shapes virtually every aspect of life in the United States–from whether you can marry the person you love, to whether you can get healthcare, to whether your classmates can carry guns around this campus.”
It was not even her appropriate observation that, “If we’re serious about fighting for progressive causes, we need to focus on the Court: who sits on it, how we choose them, and how much we let politics–partisan politics–dominate that process.”
What stood out was the way in which Clinton put the current debate over judicial nominations into historical, political and legal context.

In the speech, Clinton blistered Republicans for obstructing a vote and even hearings on President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. She explained that “this battle is bigger than just one empty seat on the Court….By Election Day, two justices will be more than 80 years old–past the Court’s average retirement age. The next president could end up nominating multiple justices,” she explained. “That means whoever America elects this fall will help determine the future of the Court for decades to come.”
Clinton then got down to specific cases before the court, including, but not limited to:

“The Court is reviewing how public-sector unions collect the fees they use to do their work. The economic security of millions of teachers, social workers and first responders is at stake. This is something the people of Wisconsin know all too well, because your governor has repeatedly attacked and bullied public sector unions, and working families have paid the price. I think that’s wrong, and it should stop.”
“The Court is reviewing a Texas law imposing unnecessary, expensive requirements on doctors who perform abortions. If that law is allowed to stand, there will only be 10 or so health centers left where women can get safe, legal abortions in the whole state of Texas, a state with about 5.4 million women of reproductive age. So it will effectively end the legal right to choose for millions of women.”
…It’s also put a hold on the president’s clean-power plan. Either America can limit how much carbon pollution we produce, or we can’t. And if we can’t, then our ability to work with other nations to meet the threat of climate change under the Paris agreement is greatly diminished.”

“In a single term,” said Clinton, “the Supreme Court could demolish pillars of the progressive movement.” Echoing the cause first championed by her rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen Sanders, Clinton added, “If the Court doesn’t overturn Citizens United, I will fight for a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of money in elections,” she said. “It is dangerous to our country and poisonous to our politics.”
Clinton reiterated her determination to “appoint justices who will make sure the scales of justice are not tipped away from individuals toward corporations and special interests; who will protect the constitutional principles of liberty and equality for all, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or political viewpoint; who will protect a woman’s right to choose, rather than billionaires’ right to buy elections; and who will see the Constitution as a blueprint for progress, not a barrier to it.”
Like Clinton, Sen. Sanders has affirmed the same priorities in selecting future Supreme Court justices. Voters in Wisconsin who value sober and serious appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court will find themselves on solid ground in casting their ballots for either Democrat.

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