First, if for some reason it has to be repeated: elections matter; they have consequences.
Consider how the Supreme Court would have held, not only in the Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn cases decided today, but in Columbia v. Heller (which, for the first time, said an individual has a right to own a gun irrespective of the “well-regulated militia” section of the Second Amendment), McDonald v. Chicago (which over-rode local gun laws), Citizens United and FEC v. Wisconsin Right-to-Life (which weakened campaign finance laws), Shelby County v. Holder (which eviscerated the Voting Rights Act), Crawford v. Marion County Election Board (which upheld Indiana’s voter ID law), or in several other cases, had Al Gore filled the two seats now held by John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
In many of those cases, the Republican majority became “activist judges,” the kind the Right is supposed to detest, and either ignored or overturned long-held precedent. That in itself is not necessarily a bad thing; Brown v. Board of Education overturned decades of precedent condoning segregation. But this Court, or at least it’s Republican-appointed male majority, has made activism a standard practice.
Yes, the present Court has upheld the EPA on emissions, and required warrants for searches of cell phones, but a Gore-appointed Court would have done the same thing. It might not even have granted cert on Citizens United, and even if it had, it would not have expanded the case to strike a blow at campaign finance reform.
I recall all too clearly Naderites back in 2000 arguing there was no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, that they were both bought and paid-for by corporations. Michael Moore, in particular, said he was sick of hearing people warning about the Supreme Court. How d’ya like the Court now, Michael?
While Dems do not have a sterling progressive record (witness NAFTA, welfare “reform,” and deregulation of the financial industry), had they held the White House and Congress, the ruinous tax cuts passed under Bush II would not have happened; we would not have gone to a trumped war in Iraq (and perhaps not ignored the CIA’s specific warning about 9/11); and we certainly have not seen the kinds of holdings that have come down from the Supreme Court since Roberts and Alito took their seats.
I’ve read bloggers claiming today’s decisions will be rallying cries for Democrats in the fall and in 2016, especially women. We’ll see. We’d better hope so.
Holding the Senate is the first order of business. Mitch McConnell has already promised, among other things, an assault on a woman’s right to choose should the Rs take over that chamber. Of course, if they lack 60 votes, Dems will be able to bottle things up, just as the Rs have since Obama was elected. But why even give them the opening?
As for 2016, consider that four justices are over 70–Breyer, Ginsberg, Scalia and Kennedy. The next president may well have four openings to fill.