I have written this new piece for TPM. It begins:
Back in September, well before the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, I wrote a TPM Café article in which I called the future composition of the Supreme Court the most important civil rights cause of our time. “It is more important than racial justice, marriage equality, voting rights, money in politics, abortion rights, gun rights, or managing climate change. It matters more because the ability to move forward in these other civil rights struggles depends first and foremost upon control of the Court.” When I wrote those words, I feared that those on the left would not see these stakes, but now that Justice Scalia’s death has brought them into sharp relief, the next question is: What to do next? And the answer is the same as in all struggles for civil rights: popular protests and peaceful demonstrations.
Contrary to the hopes of some, there is no court that’s going to force the Senate to hold a hearing or a vote for a Supreme Court nominee of President Obama. Let the pundits and scholars debate the historical precedents over how nominees have been treated in the past, and whether Democrats or Republicans are more to blame over the poor treatment of judicial nominees in the Senate. In the end, as I argued last month, whether or not President Obama is successful in getting a nomination turns on political hardball not precedent. It will be only pressure on the Senate, and particularly on Republican Senators up for reelection in blue states, that can get the Republican Senate to move on an Obama presidential nomination….
That means demonstrations and rallies not only in Washington, D.C., but in front of the offices and at the campaign events of the most vulnerable Republican Senators: Mark Kirk (R-IL), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Rob Portman (R-OH). Political ads on television and radio about the nomination may help, but they stand to be lost in the general election chatter. Showing that thousands of people care about this issue and are willing to go to the streets will show enthusiasm over this issue and Senators will pay a political price for denying even a hearing to the nominee of a president who was elected twice by the American people. When Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell feels that he could lose is Senate majority over this issue, we will become more likely to budge on it.