President Trump’s nomination of Federal Appeals Court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court has been lauded in conservative circles.
That’s because Gorsuch, 49, has penned opinions and issued rulings that championed conservative causes. He has favored corporate monopolies, touted campaign donations as free speech, and sided with employers when workers’ rights were at stake.
In Philadelphia, where the 25.8 percent poverty rate is concentrated in black and brown communities, we cannot afford a Supreme Court Justice who puts corporations before the populace, because such policies most often hurt poor people of color first.
That’s why I contacted Sen. Bob Casey’s office and voiced my concern. Having voted for the Pennsylvania Democrat, I spoke not just as a columnist, but also as a constituent.
Casey’s vote is crucial in this matter, because if eight Democrats vote with the Republican majority, Gorsuch will have the 60 votes he needs to win confirmation to the Supreme Court. Like many in the black community, I’m concerned that Gorsuch’s rulings will continue to be pro-business and anti-worker. Moreover, I’m concerned that Gorsuch will continue to support the unchecked expansion of corporate power and influence. Such an ideology will harm workers in general, and workers of color in particular, because, as the old adage goes, when America catches a cold, black folks catch the flu.
With that truth in mind, I asked Casey for a statement on Gorsuch.
“The Senator is still in the process of reviewing Judge Gorsuch’s record though his cases,” Casey spokesperson Jacklin Rhoades said in an email. “They met about a week and a half ago and talked about some of the concerns the Senator has with his record – some of which you have also mentioned. Senator Casey will now review his questioning at his hearing and make a decision. No decision has been made at this time.”
Fair enough. But here’s the reality. The black Philadelphia Democrats who helped to put Senator Casey in office need him to stand with us on this one. The numbers tell us why.
More than a third of black Philadelphians live in poverty. Our unemployment rate is twice that of our white counterparts. Those economic disparities make us particularly vulnerable to workplace abuses by unscrupulous employers, and Neil Gorsuch has a long record of ruling against the vulnerable.
He ruled against a Kansas State University professor who was let go after the school refused to extend her sick leave when she was diagnosed with two types of cancer. She later died.
Gorsuch also ruled against retirees who had their pension benefits cut. He ruled against a black man who said he was fired because of racial bias after the man’s supervisor called him a monkey.
But Gorsuch routinely rules in favor of the wealthy. In Novell vs. Microsoft—a case where 11 of 12 jurors found Microsoft guilty of pushing Novell out of the market—Gorsuch upheld the case’s dismissal. In doing so, Gorsuch wrote that “antitrust laws don’t turn private parties into bounty hunters entitled to a windfall anytime they can ferret out anticompetitive conduct lurking somewhere in the marketplace.”
Well, what are antitrust laws designed to do? Are they designed to provide protection to the small businesses that form the backbone of the American economy? Or are they designed to let big business run amok?
Finally, I worry that Gorsuch will open the floodgates to big money in politics, further muting the voices of ordinary Americans whose most powerful contribution is our vote.
In Riddle vs. Hickenlooper, a case involving campaign finance limits in Colorado, Gorsuch wrote that, “the act of contributing to political campaigns implicates a ‘basic constitutional freedom,’ one lying ‘at the foundation of a free society,’ and enjoying a significant relationship to the right to speak and associate—both expressly protected First Amendment activities.”
Maybe I’m naïve. But I don’t believe our nation’s founders envisioned money as free speech. Nor do I believe they saw corporations as people with the same rights and freedoms as individuals.
In my view, that’s the irony of someone like Neil Gorsuch. While claiming to strictly interpret the Constitution, he would use that document to bludgeon the very people it’s meant to protect.
With a lifetime appointment to the bench, Gorsuch could spend decades empowering corporate interests while whittling away the rights of the workers who create corporate wealth.
The vulnerable must stand up against that possibility, and our representatives must stand up with us.
I’m calling on the senator who won the votes of black Philadelphians to now give his vote to us.
Senator Casey, we can’t afford a lifetime of Neil Gorsuch. We’re counting on you to take that message to Washington.
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