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?"
We have no choice but to organize, strategize, vote and act. Ambivalent attitudes are not a option! All civil and human rights are at stake. What side are you on? https://t.co/rCo4u70u6l
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) June 27, 2018
Sharpton was not alone in his sentiment as many echoed similarly hyperbolic claims.
Ugh. Justice Kennedy is retiring from SCOTUS. All those people who said the nice grandma with the private emails was just as bad as Trump and the GOP look pretty damn stupid right about now.
— Adam Best (@adamcbest) June 27, 2018
Kennedy gone from the U.S. Supreme Court. Yup. Hillary and Trump were the same. Thank you Bernie types who sat out because of spite. All that white economic anxiety folks. Trump's Supreme Court will have their own version of the Dred Scott decision.
— chauncey devega (@chaunceydevega) June 27, 2018
President Trump will almost certainly replace Supreme Court Justice Kennedy’s swing vote seat with an ultra-conservative one in the mold of Neil Gorsuch. The Judiciary is our last line of defense against authoritarianism, and we are seeing it crumble away before our very eyes.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) June 27, 2018
we may have just left the point at which we could rely on democratic norms to fix our government, and are now on the road to literal revolution! #kennedy
— Elaine Atwell (@ElaineAtwell) June 27, 2018
Kennedy had two great legacies.
One was the law's recognition that gay people are people.
The other is unlimited spending by wealthy corporations in on elections.
He chose to sacrifice the former to safe the later.
He is a terrible person.https://t.co/q6Asq83WJL
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) June 27, 2018
As a member of the LGBTQ community, Justice Kennedy being replaced threatens my rights. It also threatens the rights of minorities, women and Muslims. Trump must not be allowed to replace him before November. Let the people speak first.
— Thor Benson (@thor_benson) June 27, 2018
How very cool of Justice Kennedy to pour kerosene on the current dumpster fire that is America. The Roe v Wade riots should provide fine entertainment for him in his retirement.
— Molly Knight (@molly_knight) June 27, 2018
— Slate (@Slate) June 27, 2018
I wish this Kennedy had been shot instead of the other ones. https://t.co/2pIEWf5Jdn
— Curtis Cook (@Curtis_Cook) June 27, 2018
Former National Security Council spokesman for President Barack Obama and "Pod Save America" co-host Tommy Vietor was notably brief in his reaction.
— Tommy Vietor (@TVietor08) June 27, 2018
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.
Remember when we all said you'd regret letting Harry Reid dispense with the filibuster? About that…
— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) June 27, 2018
Dear Democrats, thanks for killing the judicial filibuster. pic.twitter.com/UtBBTICwE9
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) June 27, 2018
You know how liberals talk (as do I) about the ending of norms? You know what was a norm I (and other conservatives) heatedly warned them not to end? The judicial filibuster.
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) June 27, 2018