Protect Democracy Statement on the Senate’s Consideration of Brett Kavanaugh to be Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court

  • September 12, 2018

We are at a moment when the very concept of liberal democracy is being challenged around the world. From Turkey to Hungary to Poland, we have seen autocratic leaders seek to undermine the independence of courts and place themselves above the law. We have seen racist and nativist movements in ascendence, led by demagogues who seek to scapegoat and demonize vulnerable populations to distract from their own corruption.

Here in the United States, President Trump has engaged in all of these behaviors and has put the institutions of our own democracy in jeopardy. He is also, at this moment, under investigation for potentially being involved in a conspiracy with a foreign power to corrupt the American electoral process. That investigation has already led to seven convictions and two dozen more indictments, and the question of whether the President himself engaged in illegal activity has not yet been resolved.

Into this moment comes the nomination of a Justice to the Supreme Court who would replace the Court’s traditional swing member and, by virtually all accounts, shift the balance of power on the Court.

It would be incumbent upon the Senate at any time and with any nominee to carefully scrutinize that nominee to ensure their fitness for a lifetime appointment of massive power and consequence. It is even more critical today, in this context, that the Senate thoroughly review the nominee to ensure that his confirmation will advance the cause of our constitution and our democracy.

In particular, Senators must confirm that Judge Kavanaugh appreciates and would honor the independence required of a Supreme Court Justice, from both Party and President who nominated him. Especially given President Trump’s demand of personal loyalty from others he has appointed to office, the Senate must be assured that such a demand was not made here.

Senators must also confirm that Judge Kavanaugh appreciates fully that in this country no one is above the law, not even the President. Especially given that a number of issues relating to the investigation into the President and his associates may come before the Court, Senators must be assured that Judge Kavanaugh’s legal philosophy would not result in a President being able to evade accountability.

And Senators must confirm that Judge Kavanaugh appreciates the role of the Supreme Court in preventing the political branches and political actors from undermining the foundational rules of our democracy. For our democracy to flourish, it must be fair and inclusive to all — an aspiration we’ve never fully lived up to as a nation but towards which we’ve always made progress. Before casting their votes, Senators should assure themselves that a Justice Kavanaugh would not thwart that progress.

Once the Senate has performed its constitutional responsibility and cast its vote, it is also important that we as a nation revisit what has devolved into a deeply broken process for putting justices on the Court.

Many things are to blame for the devolution of this process, but it must be fixed if we are to strengthen our democracy for the 21st Century.

Two proposals we have included in our Roadmap for Renewal are especially worthy of consideration. These proposed reforms have generated support from liberals and conservatives alike. They include moving to fixed terms for Supreme Court justices and restoring regular order for the consideration of nominees.

We ask that all Senators consider the context and stakes of this nomination before casting their vote, and that all Americans join us in advancing these and other reforms to our political and judicial process in order to renew American democracy for the next generation.