Jul 10, 2018
For Americans on both sides of social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage, the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy from the Supreme Court has created a crucial moment. As the court's swing vote, Kennedy was a powerful supporter of both things, and his departure brings with it the expectation of change.
But what sort of change will it be? President Trump has promised to nominate conservative, prolife justices, and with the naming of Justice Neil Gorsuch to the court last year he delivered. Now Senate Democrats will fight to defeat anyone else he names. Look for a battle royal ahead.
Three decades ago Kennedy was confirmed by a vote of 97-0, but things are vastly different – in the Senate and in the country – today. The polarization afflicting the nation and our politics is reflected in the polarization now routinely accompanying the selection of a justice. Conflict over social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage lies at its heart.
As attention shifts to the succession fight, it's important not to lose sight of the role Kennedy played for the light it can shed on issues that the Supreme Court will face down the road.