The next Supreme Court justices could prove decisive on fundamental questions as well as shape for decades how America works and how Americans live: Will the Supreme Court undermine the federal government’s ability to safeguard the air we breathe and the water we drink? Will the courts abandon their role in preserving Americans’ right to privacy and strip women of the constitutional right to make their own family planning and reproductive choices? Will Congress lose the power to protect Americans’ civil rights from abuses by state governments and others? Will the Voting Rights Act be applied so narrowly that it fails to protect citizens’ most fundamental rights?

This is a defining moment for the meaning of the Constitution and the direction of the nation for the first half of the 21st Century. That fact is clearly understood by right-wing leaders and their allies in the White House and Congress. That is why they have focused so intently on judicial nominations, and it is why they are prepared to go to extreme measures – including changing the very nature and role of the Senate in our constitutional system – in order to try to guarantee Senate approval for even the most extreme right-wing nominees.

It is urgent that the American people be given the opportunity to understand how much is at stake before the next Supreme Court vacancy appears and the debate becomes focused on politics and process surrounding a particular nominee. The time for a broad public discussion about the future of the Court and the Constitution is now.

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