At the moment we are trying to hold off some of the worst elements of an increasingly barbaric capitalism.Alright,
team, it is time to get down to brass tacks. The polls indicate
that the situation is one of rough parity between the presidential
candidates. The only thing surprising about this is that in a
situation where there is an economic crisis, Romney still has not
been able to dominate the election.
Given the polls,
one thing that is clear is that every vote will count and, in my
humble opinion, every state is a swing state. By this last
point I mean that the situation remains volatile, not just at the
presidential level, but all the way down the list. The
Presidency is not the only office being filled. The volatility
is largely rooted in two factors: one, will Obama's base
actually vote, and, two, what percentage of the white electorate will
decide, in effect, that they have given the black guy a chance and
now it is time to go back to the white guy. This last point is
something that we can discuss at length at another moment.
In watching the
debates and the various ads, however, something kept coming back to
me. A Canadian friend of mine verbalized my anxiety: he asked,
"have people thought about who will appoint the next Supreme
In many respects
this is enough of an argument to vote for Obama. I remember
having a discussion with the late labor leader Tony Mazzocchi years
before his passing about this question of who gets to appoint Supreme
Court justices. He suggested that it was not about the
president but about the level of social movement activity that pushed
presidents to make various appointments. I think that his point
is a truism, but with all due respect, was not and is not helpful.
Presidents appoint Supreme Court justices based on various factors,
not the least being pressure from within THEIR own constituencies.
Let's take the case of Justice Clarence Thomas. He was
appointed to replace outgoing Justice Thurgood Marshall. There
was no way that George H. W. Bush was going to appoint someone with
the capability, let alone politics of a Marshall. He appointed
a black guy who reflected the politics of his administration. Yes,
it is possible for someone to change once they are appointed, e.g.,
Justice Ear Warren, but it is not something that one can bet upon, as
many people who had great hope in Justice Thomas, once he received an
appointment to a forever position, discovered.
appoint Supreme Court justices based on various factors, not the least
being pressure from within THEIR own constituencies.Who gets to
appoint the next several Supreme Court justices could have an impact
for decades. We have already seen the damage done by George W.
Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court in the form of the Citizen's
United decision on campaign spending. In looking
at the cases that are moving to the Supreme Court or have been taken
under their jurisdiction, e.g., the Texas affirmative action case, I
sure wish that there was a different balance on the Supreme Court.
considerations are important when one realizes that progressive
forces in the USA remain on the defensive. If we had the
initiative there might be a different discussion. But at the
moment we are trying to hold off some of the worst elements of an
increasingly barbaric capitalism. No, Obama does not open the
road to fundamental social transformation, but to tell you the truth,
if he can shift the Supreme Court balance even slightly that will be
an important victory; a victory with a potentially lasting impact.
Editorial Board member and
Columnist, Bill Fletcher, Jr.,
is a Senior Scholar with the Institute
for Policy Studies, the
immediate past president of TransAfricaForum,
and the author of “They’re
Bankrupting Us” - And Twenty Other Myths about Unions.
He is also the co-author of Solidarity
Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social
Justice, which examines the
crisis of organized labor in the USA.
to contact Mr. Fletcher.