December 2, 2022

A Week for Fundamental Freedoms

Russ Feingold President

The midterms are over, except for key runoffs in Georgia and Louisiana. Right now, all eyes are on the GA Senate runoff next week. I want to start off by encouraging all our members in Georgia to vote in the runoff election on December 6, 2022. Early voting turnout has been impressive and inspiring!

Also inspiring this week? The Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act with a bipartisan vote of 61 to 36. In this era of hyper-partisanship, that is a vote to remember and a vote count that would have been hard to imagine on this issue just a handful of years ago. At the same time, we mustn’t forget why this legislation to protect marriage equality for LGBTQIA+ and interracial couples was so critically necessary– because our highest court has been captured by the Right and has proven ready and willing to erode or even eliminate fundamental rights. The Dobbs decision earlier this year, in addition to wiping out the federal constitutional right to abortion, serves as a direct threat to numerous other fundamental rights. Rather than relying on the Supreme Court to protect and vindicate civil rights, Congress is having to step in to protect rights that should be written in stone.

We are wrapping up the third week of the lame duck session. The bad news is that we have not seen a concerted plan to prioritize judicial confirmations in these final weeks of the year. The good news is that there is evidence this may be changing. While only one judge was confirmed in the first week of the lame duck, and zero last week, this week has seen two confirmations, two successful cloture votes, and cloture filed on five more. Altogether, that’s ten nominations that have or are rapidly moving towards the finish line. That would get us a third of the way to the 30 that we have been urging the Senate to confirm during the lame duck. Thirty is still very much possible and still critical to preventing the Senate from starting the New Year with a massive backlog of nominees at a time when we fully expect President Biden to start rolling out new nominations to fill the dozens and dozens of federal court vacancies. Our message to the Senate remains the same: Prioritize judges. Confirm 30.

I also want to take a moment to recognize the courageous acts of peaceful protest taking place across the globe. This includes the ongoing protests in China against the government’s “zero Covid” policy. Rather than the usual signs with expressions, symbols, and calls for action that are ubiquitous in protests here at home, protestors in China have been carrying blank sheets of paper in protest of government censorship. A powerful symbol and one that comes at enormous risk for those participating. Like the enormous risk being taken by women protesting in Iran against the regime’s killing of Mahsa Amini and the protests in solidarity with them across the globe. These protests even extended to the World Cup this week when the Iranian men’s football team chose to remain silent while their national anthem played ahead of their opening match against England. They chose not to sing, not to validate the violence and killings of their government.

These protests are not disconnected from each other, nor from our democracy’s moment of truth. The struggle between democracy and authoritarianism is not bound by borders. What is unfolding in the streets of one country inspires and emboldens those in the streets of another as videos, pictures, and testimonials are shared. As I watch videos of these remarkable acts of protest, I worry for the safety of those participating, while simultaneously cheering on their courage and its ripple effect in inspiring and lending hope to others.

Confirmation process, Democracy and Elections, Democracy and Voting, Judicial Nominations, LGBTQ Equality, Racial Justice, Right to Protest