Editorial: Your stake in the high court

In the first-ever national telephone conference open to rank-and-file Democratic Party voters across the country July 12, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pledged that Senate Democrats would use every tool, including the filibuster, to block any Supreme Court nominee who is outside of the mainstream.

Reid called on thousands of grassroots Democratic Party activists to “write letters to the editor, call members of the Senate and call, call, call talk radio” to insure that a mainstream conservative nominee like retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor be sent to the U.S. Senate for confirmation.

Most civil and women’s rights organizations are calling for nomination of a judge in O’Connor’s “mold.” This is a minimum demand. A look at O’Connor’s record shows she has been a swing vote in favor of some crucial issues such as affirmative action, privacy issues, women’s rights and striking down the anti-gay Texas sodomy law. She has also taken anti-death penalty positions and is seen as supporting an independent judiciary.

However, O’Connor also swung in favor of George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida election struggle over voting rights for African Americans and others. Plus, she may be just the first in a Bush nomination process. Chief Justice Rehnquist may retire — putting his replacement and the chief justice position into play.

Grassroots mobilization and education is critical in this fight and will help to shape the main demands and outcome. Within hours of O’Connor’s July 1 announcement that she was retiring, the National Organization for Women hit the streets to defend reproductive rights. The whole American public has to be fully informed of the issues involved.

Everyone has a stake in the Supreme Court. It’s a fight not just for the present but for a generation to come. Broad, grassroots coalitions can be built based on struggling for a Supreme Court that will uphold democracy and the hard won Bill of Rights, workers rights, privacy issues, separation of church and state, reproductive and civil rights, and not side with the narrow interests of the rich and powerful.