On Friday, August 25, 2023, Sylvia Marshall and Linda Willet attended a film event hosted by Democratic Women of DuPage County entitled “Supreme Revenge: Battle for the Court.” The film is a PBS documentary, which was shown in honor of Women’s Equality Day to demonstrate how Supreme Court decisions affect our daily lives and how our action or inaction can make the difference in the laws that affect us at a personal level.
The documentary began by showing a historic battle in Congress that most Americans do not remember. In June 1987, Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., a moderate Supreme Court justice retired. Democrats knew that Republicans had a chance to move the country in a conservative direction and vowed to stop an extremist nomination.
The battle started when Democrats refused to approve the nomination of Robert Bork to replace Justice Powell. As soon as Bork was nominated, Senator Ted Kennedy made a speech on television stating that Bork would roll back advances in civil rights, “censure writers and artists,” dictate content that could be taught in schools, and force “women into back-alley abortions.” (Amazingly, Kennedy was predicting the future 36 years later when Republicans have achieved their goal of a conservative court.) The NAACP supported Kennedy’s position, and Joe Biden, who was head of the Senate Judiciary Committee led the questioning. Bork appeared self-righteous and condescending in his answers, refusing to take the advice and coaching of White House staff. His attitude and answers during questioning made his rejection even more likely. Bork was defeated with a vote of 58 to 42, the largest defeat of a Supreme Court candidate.
Mitch McConnell was a young Republican senator at that time and warned that “there would be a price to pay” if the Democrats blocked Bork’s nomination. And McConnell has stayed true to his word. During the last year of Obama’s presidency, McConnell refused to consider Merrick Garland as a nominee and “declared that it is the Senate’s constitutional right to act as a check on the president and withhold its consent.” McConnell also said that a lame-duck president should not fill the vacancy. However, he changed his tune when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died q few months before the 2020 presidential election, and McConnell forced through the nomination of conservative Amy Coney Barrett before the election took place.
The film also showed the events that occurred when Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh were nominated, and the agonizing testimonies of Anita Hill and Christine Blasey Ford. Even though a poll showed that the majority of Americans and many prominent Republican senators believed Ford’s testimony, McConnell demanded that Republican senators support Kavanaugh, who won with a 51 to 49 vote.
The film was followed by a question-answer session with Meaghan Murphy, Chief of Staff of Personal Pac. Personal Pac is a political action committee that helps pro-choice candidates in Illinois get elected. Meaghan said that we must remain vigilant in Illinois and encourage people to vote democratic. A change in government can shut down progress and access almost immediately. She said that Illinois is a safe haven for women from other states, and even though some of them have insurance, they are afraid to use their insurance for reproductive care because of the chance for retaliation, including arrest in their home states. The Dobbs decision gave decision-making power to the states. Meaghan ended the discussion with the quote “Who is in power really matters in government.” That is why we must get out the vote and take back both houses of Congress.