Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s passing, and Donald Trump’s subsequent nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, has us all rightly worried about the impending collapse of voting rights, women’s rights, gay rights, labor rights, and civil rights more broadly. Also in the news this week, a new start-up called Civvl recruits gig workers to sign up as independent contractors to serve as eviction agents for landlords looking to get rid of tenants behind on their rent.
These two stories might seem unrelated, but they’re not. A society this brutal, merciless, predatory, and exploitative cannot and will not uphold basic civil rights, nor can it function democratically. A society that enlists desperate people as gig workers to help evict other desperate people is no society at all. There’s no social fabric; there’s no sense of community, of solidarity, of togetherness, of mutual trust, of good will. And therefore, there can be no equality - of any kind - and there can certainly be no democracy.
And so Ginsburg’s legacy, as admirable as her personal story may be, is, after all, an illusion. There are no true champions of equality, liberty, fairness, or justice, in a system like this. Civil rights can only exist in a civil society, in which there is some shared commitment to the common good. But we don’t have that here; we never really did. We’ve always been a dog eat dog, every man for himself society in which every person’s claim to dignity depends upon the marketability of their skill set.
As we’re being made to run this hyper-capitalist, sink-or-swim gauntlet, we’re preached at by the liberal class about the virtues of diversity, inclusion, and tolerance, as if these values are attainable amidst such draconian economic conditions. This liberal ideal of a multicultural capitalist utopia has always been a pipe dream, and now, with a pending 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court, it looks more and more like a downright fantasy.
Can Coney Barrett’s nomination be stopped? Perhaps. There are numerous delay tactics that House and Senate Democrats can employ to, at the very least, stall the process until after the November 3rd election. Whether they’ll use them or not is another question. The Democrats, after all, have made courting moderate Republicans the linchpin of their 2020 electoral strategy, and those voters might not appreciate them grinding the government to a halt to block a conservative SCOTUS appointment.
If Coney Barrett is seated and Trump is defeated in November, will Joe Biden commit to packing the court - the only remedy that allows for even the possibility of progressive reform? This is, unfortunately, another precarious proposition. But even if a potential Biden administration were to defy all expectations and actually do the right thing, packing the court would drastically alter the role of the judiciary in our constitutional system (though I would of course argue that such a partisan perversion of the courts has already happened, which is the argument for packing the courts in the first place).
No matter the resolution here, it’s clear that liberalism, which is the combination of market capitalism, secularism, and racial, gender, and sexual equality, is unsustainable, because capitalism, and the oligarchy which it inevitably yields, will not allow for equality of any kind. Ginsburg’s replacement by Barrett on the nation’s highest court is just the latest and starkest example of the irreconcilable contradictions of civil equality and economic barbarism.
We discuss Ginsburg’s legacy, the threat of a right wing court, the Democrats’ options in the coming weeks, and the history of capital/labor struggles that led to this moment on episode 88 of the Due Dissidence podcast. Hear our full conversation by clicking the player below:
Photos: Biography.com, Notre Dame University