Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the Supreme Court of the United States yesterday. This makes the current Supreme court one of the most conservative in ages, with a 6 to 3 majority. Previously, some cases would be ruled in favor of the liberal judges, because one of the conservative judges would agree with the liberal judges (and often they would dictate the terms of the opinion). Now this is much more unlikely, as it requires two conservative judges to side with the liberals.
This will have wide-reaching consequences. One of the most immediate consequences is on the current case arguing against the constitutionality of Obamacare.
If you’re a US citizen, you’ve likely been told to vote a hundred times already. Even if you’re not a US citizen, you’ve seen it, and are probably sick of it. This is, of course, because Trump is an extraordinarily dangerous president. But I want to point out the obvious: this whole situation with the Supreme Court did not arise from Trump shenanigans, it arose from plain old Republican shenanigans. Amy Coney Barrett is a judge that any Republican president could have nominated, and any Republican senate could have confirmed.
So don’t just vote out Trump, vote them all out. Note, senators are only reelected every 6 years, so this requires sustained commitment–voting in every election, including midterms. This year, everyone is anxious about the election and feeling a bit powerless. Channel that anxiety into a commitment to exercise your voting power at every opportunity.
When I write about elections, most recently in my 2020 endorsements, and in another essay on The Asexual Agenda, I always try to emphasize that there is more to the election than just the presidents. This is largely because I live in California, where the presidential elections don’t really matter. The electoral college is an undemocratic institution that disenfranchises the 40 million people in my state. Presidential candidates, including Democrats, never even try to address the devastating effects of California wildfires, instead veering towards issues that are parochial to swing states. And while we do have power in the senate, our power is 70 times smaller per capita than Wyoming.
But it’s not entirely true that presidential elections don’t matter in California. Voter turnout tends to be much higher in years where there is a presidential election. For example, the 2014 midterm election had a turnout of 31%, but the 2016 election had a turnout of 59% (cite). This has a huge effect on every other election that occurs in California, even if the presidential election itself is a foregone conclusion.
So, you know, vote even if you are disenfranchised. Vote, even if you are one of those people who thinks third party presidential candidates are a good idea. Vote, even if it will have no impact on the president, or even if there is no presidential election at all.
Congress is one of the things you should vote for. The good news about the current Obamacare Supreme Court case, is that it’s basically based on a drafting error in the Obamacare law. It’s easy to fix, just make a small amendment to the law. Republican Senators are apparently unwilling. Vote them out. The Supreme Court needs reform, because it’s frankly absurd that the balance of our country depends on the lifespans of nine individuals, and that it is so vulnerable to packing. A Republican congress will never reform the Supreme Court. Vote them out.
But Congress isn’t the only thing. There are regularly important elections on the state and local level too. In California this year, we have Prop 15 and Prop 22. Prop 15 closes a tax loophole caused by a critical mistake that voters made in 1978. Prop 22 creates another critical mistake, by depriving a whole class of gig workers employee’s rights. Pretty much every California election has important decisions like these, and they’re usually decided by smaller margins than the nation-wide elections.
I get that researching these issues is difficult, especially with the most local elections which may only have one newspaper even talking about them. When I voted in my first election, I was taken by surprise–I went in to vote for Obama, and I didn’t expect to be handed a ballot with a million other decisions. I spontaneously decided on a few, but mostly I abstained.
Abstaining is probably the best decision in that situation, and voting for what you can is better than avoiding the polls entirely. But the next time, I learned to be prepared, spending just a few hours to research everything. It can be a bit overwhelming at first, but remember we’re here for the long haul, so the important thing is that you eventually get better and better at it.