Last week saw the exit of yet another high profile Trump administration official. The departure of David Shulkin, Secretary of Veteran Affairs, was no surprise after weeks of damaging headlines and rumored controversy between him and President Trump. Secretary Shulkin is one of a long list of senior officials to be ousted – the latest act of a President who seems to take actions as a means of distraction, drawing attention away from the fact that this administration is accomplishing little of what it campaigned on.
While the media stay transfixed by the weekly cascade of firings, turmoil, and policy fits and starts of this administration, one area where the conservative agenda has moved forward with efficiency is the Federal judiciary. President Trump inherited an unusual number of court vacancies, including many judicial emergencies that required immediate attention. Those vacancies existed because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used a variety of procedures to delay or prevent confirmation of virtually all of President Obama’s judicial nominees. In contrast, under the GOP-led Senate, President Trump has moved quickly to fill federal seats across the country. In fact, this President has appointed more appellate judges in his first year than any president before him. Confirmations are moving fast, but not all are assured. In a few instances, the president’s nominees were so unqualified the Senate was compelled to force their withdrawal.
This ability to flood the federal courts with conservative appointees will impact US public policy for years to come as federal judges are entitled to hold their positions for life. Generations of Americans will be affected if these nominees refuse to recognize the protections organized labor provides working men and women, that love is love no matter your gender, and that women have the right to make decisions about their bodies free from government interference. Presidents come and go, but federal judicial rulings transcend elections.
With the significant shift to the right in the courts, I believe it is more important now than ever to embrace the empowered civil commitment of our youth. Throughout our nation’s history, and especially at our most pivotal moments, it has been young people who have answered the call and taken a position at the forefront of progress. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the civil rights movement, but the involvement of young Americans, black and white, were the engine of his force for change. Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Reflecting on his legacy I am reminded of his message that, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” The recent success of the #MarchForOurLives and the many student walk-outs confirm the next generation will again force change. Their political courage has fostered substantive discussion about gun control and even influenced the passage of the STOP School Violence Act of 2018 – increasing funding to further secure schools against gun violence as part of the recent bipartisan Omnibus Bill passed by Congress.
On the night of Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, Presidential candidate Senator Robert Kennedy said, “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.”
This call to action rings as true today as it did 50 years ago. The youth will again lead us forward.