If Californians act, Kavanaugh is not a done deal for Supreme Court

Abortion rights demonstrators rally outside the Supreme Court as President Trump announced his nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, on  July 9.
Abortion rights demonstrators rally outside the Supreme Court as President Trump announced his nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, on July 9. The New York Times

Californians resisting the Trump administration can activate grassroots supporters in other states to stop the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the U.S. Supreme Court.

We can replicate the successful strategy last year that prevented the takeaway of health coverage and protections for millions of Americans with disabilities and pre-existing conditions. We can also revive the spirited opposition to a far-right nominee 30 years ago that paved the way for Justice Anthony Kennedy.


Despite his deference to many conservative causes, Kennedy wrote major rulings in favor of safe and legal abortion, affirmative action, recognition of LGBT people, individual privacy and stopping the mistreatment of prisoners. The person who fills his seat will inherit that pivotal authority.

The path of confirmation runs through the citizenry. With the ink barely dry on Kennedy’s retirement letter, President Donald Trump was stumping in North Dakota and Wisconsin and summoning senators to the White House. His pressure campaign has begun.

So has ours.

Hans Johnson.jpg
Hans Johnson

As we did in July 2017 to stop the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, progressive activists in California have started to make thousands of calls to voters in other states with undecided or persuadable senators, including Alaska, Maine, Indiana and North Dakota. Those senators will then hear from hundreds of impassioned in-state constituents.

Using these tools of democracy can deny Trump his goal of installing Kavanaugh, a judge hostile to women’s and workers’ rights and to limits on the president’s authority, who can stay on the court for three decades.

Advocates of equal rights, privacy and a level playing field have risen to this challenge before. On July 1, 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Judge Robert Bork to succeed Justice Lewis Powell, then considered the swing vote.

Supporters of safe and legal abortion and civil rights organized quickly, documented concerns about Bork, emboldened Democratic senators to resist confirmation and informed leaders of threatened constituencies to mobilize local supporters. In October 1987, the U.S. Senate defeated Bork’s nomination 58-42, with a handful of Republicans joining Democrats. That led to a more humane conservative nominee for the Supreme Court, named Anthony Kennedy.

Trump is doing much of the work of an effective resistance for us. Democrats have been galvanized by his forced separation of immigrant children, trade war and attack on affirmative action, just days after Kennedy’s retirement announcement, along with recent Supreme Court rulings upholding Trump’s travel ban and undermining unions.

California’s progressive activists have helped stop a nomination and a takeaway of hard-won rights before . Perhaps we can do it again.

Hans Johnson is president of the East Area Progressive Democrats in Los Angeles. He can be contacted at