Voices Carry


It is hard enough to get Americans to fulfill their obligation of voting in elections. In one poll four percent of the respondents would not even take the step of registering to vote because they felt that their “vote wouldn’t make a difference.” Even less of our fellow citizens take a more active role in the democratic process under the assumption that their voice is too small to be heard. However, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges could not have happened without the grassroots activism that had taken place 28 years ago.

Robert Bork had  been promised a seat on the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon in exchange for his role in firing the Special Prosecutor in the Watergate investigation. Solicitor General Bork became the “White House toady” when his two superiors chose to resign to avoid carrying out Nixon’s orders. While Nixon was never able to follow through with his promise, Reagan did nominate Bork for a soon to be vacant seat on the Court in 1987. For only the 12th time in history, the Senate rejected his nomination in a bipartisan vote after a coordinated grassroots campaign against him. An outgrowth of this success was the entry of “bork” into the American lexicon, a verb that Dictionary.com defines as “to mount an intense campaign against a political appointee” as in “‘We’re going to Bork him,’ proclaimed a feminist advocate.”

After the failed nomination of Douglas Ginsburg, Reagan went on to nominate Anthony Kennedy to the Court. As opposed to the divisive Bork, Kennedy “was widely viewed by conservatives and liberals alike as balanced and fair” and was unanimously confirmed. Today he is the swing vote on many cases, including Obergefell v. Hodges, for which he wrote the Majority Opinion.

There is also a lesson for those who believe that “it doesn’t matter who is in the White House.” President Obama has successfully appointed two judges to the Supreme Court and both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan voted with the narrow majority in this case. It is hard to imagine that a President John McCain, with his reelection depending on the Conservative base, would have nominated judges with similar thinking. With four of the nine judges currently on the bench over the age of 75, it is likely that our next president will be making nominations to the highest bench in the land. Therefore, the voices of those who exercise their right and responsibility to vote will be carried far into the future.