How Justice Kennedy’s Retirement Will Hurt Trump’s Base
King Pyrrhus once won two great battles against a Roman legion and remarked that another “would utterly undo” him when congratulated. And as bizarre as it may seem at first glance, the same problem applies to the currently cheering Republicans thrilled at the prospect of Supreme Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement and Trump getting a second Supreme Court pick in 18 months in a GOP controlled Congress. Why? Because while they’re salivating at the prospect of overturning virtually all Civil Rights rulings (such as Roe v. Wade), they haven’t paid attention to conservative Supreme Court cases outside the Culture War rubric. Those decisions may not get nearly as much press, but they still have a huge impact on their wellbeing and bottom line.
Some of the current Supreme Courts’ greatest hits include legalizing low-level wage theft (Epic Systems v. Lewis), weakened public workers’ unions’ ability to collectively bargain by restricting how they can collect dues to lobby elected officials and management (Janus v. AFSCME), and allowing companies to force employees into individual arbitration to prevent them joining forces when suing over lost wages (EY v. Morris, NLRB v. Murphy Oil). And as the Trump administration stripped 12.5 million workers from overtime protections, allowed predatory tip pooling, and made reports of workplace injuries and illnesses to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration voluntary, among other moves, their track record indicates that any challenge to these policies would be in vain.
And the same goes for the extremely popular protections for pre-existing conditions under the Affordable Care Act which another right-wing justice would be perfectly fine with eliminating, especially while the Trump administration refuses to defend them in court. With these protections gone, millions of people, many of them among Trump’s loyal base, would be swiftly denied insurance or forced to pay ruinous premiums with equally staggering deductibles. It may sound like hyperbole, but it’s just a statistical inevitability that people will die thanks to such a decision because they won’t be able to afford their medication or see a doctor in time for a life-threatening condition. In the rest of the developed world, this would be considered monstrous cruelty. In Republican America, it’s the way things are because shut up you bleeding heart socialist snowflake.
In other words, the administration and the Supreme Court are quietly busy allowing companies to treat their employees as disposable then discard them, underpaying and overworking them with little fear of recourse. The only thing employees can do is quit with little guarantee that their next employer won’t treat them the same way. This is why another hyper-conservative justice would be so problematic to the white working class ecstatic at the prospect of one joining the court shortly. In their quest to push younger women and minorities back to second-class citizen status, they’re running the very real risk that the elites they were so upset about taking advantage of them can squeeze them even more while they have virtually no protections to speak of when they reach their breaking point.
It really says something about the potency of the Culture Wars rhetoric that we now have those most vulnerable to exploitation by their bosses actively cheering for a court that will protect those bosses’ right to do it, just to legally attack those the GOP designated as the official scapegoats for all their troubles. Of course their mileage may vary, but with the demographics of the group in question leaning towards middle age and lacking college degrees, very likely with some chronic conditions that may have to go untreated, their bargaining power with employers may not be in their favor, especially if those employers know they can do more or less as they please. In the end, their dream of gutting the rights of women and minorities is very likely cost them. Literally.