On August 4, People For the American Way Vice President of Communications and Research Drew Courtney spoke on a panel at the Netroots Nation conference in New Orleans. Courtney joined other activists and advocates to discuss the Supreme Court, education and gun violence.
Courtney detailed PFAW’s work in protecting the Supreme Court, and called particular attention to the fact that despite most Americans favoring a fair and impartial judiciary, we still aren’t always winning the battle against narrow-minded judicial elitists. Courtney underscored that the far Right has effectively influenced the makeup of the judiciary because they have strategically championed the cause to criminalize abortion and promoted the term “strict constructionist” to express what they seek in a judge.
He emphasized that “people know what Republicans are selling them on the courts,” but “we [progressives] haven’t done a particularly good job of doing that.” Progressives need to remind voters what’s at stake with each dangerous conservative judge that is nominated to a lifetime seat on the high court. They need to understand what a progressive judge looks like and what a “fair-minded constitutionalist” embodies.
Elevating these concepts and language creates a simple idea that progressives can rally behind in the fight to protect our courts. “What does it mean when you have a fair-minded constitutionalist who understands that women’s sovereignty over their own bodies is inherent in the due process clause and the guarantees of liberty in our Constitution? What does it mean when you have a fair-minded constitutionalist who understands that Nazis walking through parks with guns is not a ‘well-regulated militia’?” asked Courtney. “Next time when we have someone in the White House, who’s giving us nominees that we like, what is our vision for that ask?”
Courtney closed with a call to action for the audience, saying that it will take a multi-faceted effort from groups in every issue area to define “fair-minded constitutionalist” in terms of how it impacts their particular communities and issues. He finished, “What we need is for everybody to take this language and use it. And you have to do your part; we all need to be talking about the Court in our own way because no one is going to be able to speak for every community and every cause.”