Liberals Decry Kennedy’s Retirement

Justice Anthony Kennedy / Getty
• June 27, 2018 5:22 pm


Liberal activists took to social media Wednesday to decry the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court and his impending replacement by a conservative of President Donald Trump's choosing.

The retirement, which grants Trump the opportunity to make two appointments to the Supreme Court in as many years, could permanently alter the institution's ideological balance. Kennedy had long been recognized as a swing-vote preventing either the court's conservative or liberal wings from becoming ascendant.

By choosing to retire under the Trump administration, Kennedy has all but assured that someone of similar style and legal temperament to Justice Neil Gorsuch, whom Trump nominated last year to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, will be his successor.

The notion of a cemented 5-to-4 conservative majority on the nation's highest court has triggered backlash and rebuke by liberals. Most of the opposition seems to derive from fear, on the part of liberals, that a Supreme Court majority consisting of individuals committed to a strict interpretation of the constitution and limited government will result in personal liberties being trampled.

The pervading agitation on the left was exemplified by the self-described social justice activist Rev. Al Sharpton, who claimed Wednesday that Kennedy's retirement posed a consequential threat to "all civil and human rights."

"We have no choice but to organize, strategize, vote and act," Sharpton tweeted. "Ambivalent attitudes are not a[sic] option! All civil and human rights are at stake. What side are you on?"

Sharpton was not alone in his sentiment as many echoed similarly hyperbolic claims.

Former National Security Council spokesman for President Barack Obama and "Pod Save America" co-host Tommy Vietor was notably brief in his reaction.

At least a few conservatives on social media were quick to point out the irony that it was former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) and other Democrats who had been zealous to end the filibuster for judicial nominations. In 2013, Reid pushed through a controversial rule change that weakened the filibuster by reducing the threshold, from 60 votes to 51, executive and judicial nominees had to reach for confirmation. At the time, the change was approved on a near-party-line vote, with the entire GOP caucus and three moderate Democrats voting in opposition.

In the face of Democratic obstructionism last year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) was forced to extend the rule change instituted by Reid to Supreme Court nominations.