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CJ Werleman

Justice Kennedy's replacement will be an even greater enemy of Arab-Americans

'It spells trouble for anyone who isn't a wealthy, white, Christian male' [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 June, 2018

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Comment: Trump's new hyperconservative Supreme Court is likely to rubber stamp the worst impulses of the far right, writes CJ Werleman
Once described as the "most influential person in American life today," as a result of long being considered the decisive vote on the US Supreme Court, Justice Kennedy's retirement allows President Trump to reshape the highest court not only in a way that reflects his far right view of the world, but also for a generation or more.

The consequences for women and minorities from all walks of life - including Arab-Americans - promise to be devastating.

Trump can now deliver what the Republican Party's base have long agitated for: a Supreme Court that acts as a rubber stamp for the worst impulses of the far right.

Nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, Kennedy kept the far right agenda in check, at least to some extent, having voted with the four liberal judges on abortion, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, and the death penalty, despite voting mostly along conservative lines in his final term.

In today's hyper-polarised political climate, however, Kennedy was often maligned by conservative voters and portrayed as a "sell out", particularly because of his opposition to overturning Roe v Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalised a woman's right to her own body.

His retirement allows Trump to further sate his far right political base by giving them everything they crave: a stripping down of the US constitution that allows them to discriminate against every group of people they hate, including women who seek relief from unwanted pregnancy; immigrants who seek shelter in the United States; gays who seek marriage with the person they love; minorities who seek protection from police harassment and surveillance; and minorities who seek the right to vote and enjoy equal protection under the law.

A Supreme Court stacked with far-right justices will rule in favour of challenges to the Civil Rights Act

Justice Kennedy was the obstacle to this project, and now he's gone, which has the far right salivating with the prospect of having five hyper-conservative judges ruling over the interpretation of the country's most consequential laws.

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), long considered the far right's leader in the US Senate described Kennedy's retirement as an "opportunity to really have a profound impact on the court, an impact that could last for decades".

That "profound impact" is likely to translate to an imminent threat to the civil rights of women, blacks, Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, and other minorities. With Trump in the White House and the Republican Party holding a slim majority in the Senate, the incoming ninth judge will inherit the casting vote on cases relating to immigration, women's rights, voting laws, gun control, privacy and more.

It should not be forgotten, however, that Kennedy voted to uphold Trump's 'Muslim ban', but it's likely his replacement will be an even greater enemy of Muslim and Arab-Americans who have been unfairly targeted and harassed by law enforcement agencies in the post-9/11 era.

For instance, Kennedy voted to protect individual privacy in the digital age, voting to deny law enforcement agencies the ability to search your mobile phone, or place a GPS tracking device on your car without a warrant. Under a far more right leaning justice, however, Muslim and Arab-Americans must wonder and fear what fate will befall them the next time Trump reacts to an "Islamist" attack.

Read more:  Danger ahead: Upholding Trump's travel ban

Trump called for a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States" in response to Omar Mateen's attack on the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016. That attack left 49 people dead, and provided the fodder - however fallacious - Trump needed to 'justify' his travel ban, recently upheld by the Supreme Court.

What insane and inhumane law will Trump propose next, for the undesirables in today's America? GPS tracking devices on cars owned by Muslims and Arabs? Civilian internment camps? And will the Supreme Court uphold Trump's next racist insanity?

It was the Supreme Court that ruled against Fred Korematsu, a Japanese-American man who refused to relocate to an internment camp in 1944, thus codifying discrimination and cruelty against Japanese-American citizens. It should also be remembered that Trump cited this case while attempting to sell his proposed Muslim ban.

Trump can now deliver what the Republican Party's base have long agitated for

Archibald Cox, who served as President John Kennedy's solicitor general, rightly noted that "many of today's great constitutional issues grow out of the problems of race relations," including what he described as the "various challenges to the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act."

Whatever happens in the near future, one can be sure that a Supreme Court stacked with justices of a far right bent will certainly hear cases and rule in favour of challenges to the Civil Rights Act, which spells trouble for anyone who isn't a financially wealthy, white, Christian male.


CJ Werleman is the author of 'Crucifying America', 'God Hates You, Hate Him Back' and 'Koran Curious', and is the host of Foreign Object.

Follow him on Twitter: @cjwerleman


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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