This OTYCD post originally appeared in April 2018.
Believe It, You Matter, Part VII: Avenge Merrick Garland.
Sarah Jane here. (I write all the Believe It, You Matter entries.)
I went to as many of the big anti-Trump rallies that I could attend in 2017–the Women’s March, the Science March, the Tax March–you name it, I tried to go.
The signs at these protests were goddamn amazing. Going into the Science March, I realized I needed to up my sign game. I seriously thought about toting one that said:
AVENGE MERRICK GARLAND
Because it made me laugh. Merrick Garland is an inherently nice guy. That’s one of the big reasons why President Barack Obama nominated him for the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS)–everybody likes Merrick.
The idea of avenging the nicest, most likable federal judge who’s not yet on the Supreme Court struck me as funny. But I ultimately decided that the message wasn’t science-y enough. Instead I made a sign that said:
FIGHT TRUTH DECAY
…and that got many laughs and compliments.
Still, I keep coming back to the idea of avenging Merrick Garland.
Let me pause to explain who Merrick Garland is, for those who forgot or who came late to the discussion. Garland is a federal judge who Obama nominated to the SCOTUS seat that opened when Antonin Scalia unexpectedly died in February 2016.
As I stated above, Obama chose Garland with purpose and calculation. Garland was 63 at the time–not a young man–and he had long reaped praise from both sides of the aisle. If Garland got a hearing, he’d be chosen for the court. No question.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell countered by … not giving Garland a hearing in the Senate. McConnell, who is known for his asshole moves, topped himself with this one. The New York Times summed it up well by calling it “an aggressive break with protocol.” McConnell came up with a bullshit rationale about not letting a president in his last year in office pick a SCOTUS candidate, and he self-righteously stuck to his bullshit rationale throughout.
You know the rest. Trump got elected, and he filled the open seat with Neil Gorsuch–an inferior choice for SCOTUS, and a noxiously partisan one.
But that’s not the whole story. When Trump got elected, you and I and so many more were shocked into action. We mobilized. We organized. We stepped up. We came out. We fought back, and we haven’t stopped fighting back.
This is where avenging Merrick Garland comes in.
If the angry, alert, civically-engaged network we built after Trump’s election had existed at the time of Garland’s nomination, he’d probably be sitting on the court now. We would have rallied and called our Senators until they relented and gave the man a hearing. And if Garland had gotten a hearing, he almost certainly would have won the SCOTUS seat.
You can avenge Merrick Garland by staying alert, staying civically engaged, and staying ready to mobilize and petition your elected officials when they try to flout rules and norms and get away with outrages against democracy.
Trump will go, but you must not. Do not drift away after he leaves. Sure, let yourself rest. But we need you to come back, and we need you to keep fighting. For Merrick Garland’s sake.
Read about Obama’s choice of Garland, and McConnell’s refusal to hold a hearing for him: