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In 2017, women marched against Trump. Now they’re marching to get rid of him.

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Almost four years ago, millions of people gathered in Washington, DC, and around the world for the first-ever Women’s March, a historic demonstration against the rhetoric and positions of President Donald Trump that was, at that time, probably the largest single-day protest in American history.

And on Saturday, Americans gathered again in the nation’s capital and in cities around the country to protest the possibility of a Trump second term and call for progressive change. You could still spot pink “pussy” hats in the crowd in Washington, a sometimes-criticized homage to Trump’s boast on the Access Hollywood tape that he could grab women “by the pussy.”

But marchers also carried signs with messages like “Scare ‘em on Halloween, bury ‘em on Election Day,” “We will remember on the 3rd of November,” and “See you at the polls.”

Demonstrators march on Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women’s March in Washington, DC, on October 17, 2020.
Jose Luis Magana/AP

The emphasis on the election — a major focus for the organizers of the event, held as early voting has already begun in many states — is a long time coming for the Women’s March. The group, founded by some of the organizers of the original march, has been through change and controversy since January 2017, including allegations that some of its founders made anti-Semitic statements (the group has denied the allegations). But especially leading up to the 2018 midterm elections, it began to focus its energies more squarely on electoral politics. And Saturday found the group settling into an identity that could carry it through 2020 and beyond: a vehicle for women’s power at the ballot box.

That power hasn’t always been a force for progressive change. As many have pointed out — including some at the first Women’s March in 2017 — 53 percent of white women who voted in the 2016 election cast their ballots for Donald Trump. And while the Women’s March grew out of opposition to Trump’s election, it now has a more difficult job than protesting any one president — it has to bring women together as a multiracial voting bloc for progressive candidates.

To that end, the group’s activities on Saturday included a mass textathon, with attendees gathering in a socially distanced grid on the National Mall to text voters in swing states. The day also included a golf cart parade in The Villages retirement community in Florida, and more than 400 marches in all 50 states. These events clearly showed the Women’s March can still bring people together in the streets. Now the question is whether it can bring women together to vote.

“Women are going to be the driving force in American politics,” the group’s executive director, Rachel O’Leary Carmona, told Vox. “We cannot be divided and we cannot be distracted.”

The Women’s March has faced controversy over the years

The first Women’s March took place on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of President Trump. The events in Washington and across the country drew between 3 million and 5 million people, or about 1 percent of the entire population of the US, according to one estimate. The crowds in Washington appeared much larger than those at Trump’s inauguration, reportedly sending the new president into a rage.

But that march, initially planned by white women before a group that included organizers Tamika Mallory, Linda Sarsour, and Carmen Perez took the helm, also faced criticism. In particular, many wondered whether the many white women in attendance were prepared to do the hard work necessary to stay involved in activism — and to convince friends and family members not to vote for more politicians like Trump.

A viral photo from the event captured many of the criticisms: in it, political strategist Angela Peoples holds a sign reading, “Don’t forget: White women voted for Trump.”

A demonstrator at the Women’s March outside the New York Stock Exchange, October 17, 2020.
Mary Altaffer/AP

In the months and years that followed, the Women’s March worked to counter the idea that it was focused on white women and their concerns. At a convention hosted by the group in October 2017, for example, one of the most popular events was a panel titled “Confronting White Womanhood,” which discussed the roles white women can play in racism.

But the group also faced new controversy, including allegations that Mallory and Perez made anti-Semitic comments at a 2016 planning meeting for the original march. Representatives for the group have said those comments didn’t happen, but Mallory and two other members of its leadership stepped down in 2019, and the group added a large slate of new board members, including Rabbi Tamara Cohen, who works with a group focused on teens and Jewish identity, and Lucy Flores, a former Democratic state assembly member from Nevada who has said that Joe Biden planted an inappropriate kiss on her head at a campaign event in 2014.

The fourth annual marches in January 2020 were the group’s smallest yet, leading some to wonder whether it still had a role to play in the political landscape.

But Carmona, who became executive director in August, says the group still has a lot of work to do, whether that’s supporting women essential workers during the pandemic, or spearheading a program to counter online misinformation around the election. “We’ve been trying to respond to the political moment,” she said. “Where women are and where the issues are, that’s where we need to be.”

But organizers say it’s going strong — and focused on 2020

After the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September, the group found another role to play. The Women’s March began organizing vigils for the justice around the country, but thousands of people on social media were calling for marches, Carmona said. So the group helped to organize the Washington event and hundreds of sister events around the country.

“We kind of see ourselves as the air traffic controllers directing support, expertise, tools, resources, across the ecosystem of organizations and groups that share a commitment to building the power of women,” Carmona said.

Protesters invoke the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg during the Women’s March on October 17, 2020, in New York.
Mary Altaffer/AP

The events on Saturday are in part a protest against Republicans’ drive to replace Ginsburg before the election — with Amy Coney Barrett, who many fear will oppose abortion access, LGBTQ anti-discrimination protections, and voting rights. Many in attendance held signs opposing Barrett’s nomination, including one depicting Ginsburg and other female justices with the words, “Dear Amy, you can’t sit with us.”

But Saturday is also squarely about the election. “The through-line for us for the last year has really been how we get from the energy of the march from 2017, and the momentum from the wins of the 2018 midterms, to 2020,” Carmona said.

After a midday rally, protesters marched to the National Mall, where some would spend several hours texting voters in swing states. “We looked at the iconic photos of the first Women’s March in January 2017 — everyone marching had their sign in one hand and their phone in the other,” Carmona wrote in a memo in advance of the event. “We are capitalizing on that with a mass, Jerry Lewis style text-a-thon into the swing states that matter most.”

The group has also created a volunteer hub where protesters can sign up for more events, including vote-tripling drives where volunteers get the word out to three women in their networks.

And though Carmona is clear that “our goal is to build a multiracial mass movement,” a significant portion of that work is bringing white women into the fold. “While Women’s March has always been an organization run by women of color, we have always also had a significantly white base of about 70 percent white women,” Carmona said.

A lot of those white women are also new to activism. Part of the work of the Women’s March, now and in the future, is “to provide a really strong political education and orient people to this moment in time,” she said. “Across the board, because of Trump and because of his congressional enablers, women are sicker, women are poorer, women are terrified, and we’re without a safety net or a helping hand.”

Such messages might be resonating with women voters this year. Historically, women have not voted as a bloc, with Republican women choosing to vote with their party and white women often siding with white men rather than women of color. But that could be changing, with huge gender gaps in polling going into the 2018 election, and Biden up an eye-popping 23 percent among women in a recent nationwide poll (he and Trump were tied among men).

It’s too soon to tell whether the white women who cast their votes for Trump in 2016 will make a different choice this year. But the Women’s March is betting that they will, and that it can be part of driving that change, this year and beyond.

“We have never been more united, both across the movement and inside of our organization, towards a common goal,” Carmona said.


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Amy Coney Barrett has officially been confirmed as a Supreme Court justice

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In a narrow 52-48 vote, the Senate has officially confirmed Amy Coney Barrett for appointment to the Supreme Court, a huge win for Republicans who worked quickly — and ignored past precedent — to advance her nomination.

Barrett, who will now take the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is a staunch conservative whose vote could be the deciding one on upcoming cases involving the Affordable Care Act, abortion rights, and voting rights. Her confirmation solidifies a 6-3 conservative majority on the high court, and is likely to affect its skew for decades.

Ultimately, every Republican senator except Susan Collins (R-ME) voted in favor of Barrett’s confirmation, while no Democrats did. Collins voted against Barrett because she disagreed with the process used for her nomination, something Democrats had objected to as well. Democrats had also expressed concerns about the conservative slant of Barrett’s past writings and opinions.

Overall, Barrett’s nomination has been controversial for many reasons including its timing: In 2016, Senate Republicans refused for months to consider a Supreme Court nominee until after the general election, because they argued that the American people — through their votes — should have a voice in the decision-making process. This year, however, with less than two months to go until the election, Republicans moved to expedite Barrett’s confirmation.

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in during the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing on October 12, 2020.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

To do so, Republicans made approving Barrett’s nomination their absolute priority, even as multiple lawmakers were diagnosed with coronavirus and as stimulus talks remained at an impasse. “Nothing about this is normal,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) emphasized at the start of Barrett’s confirmation hearing. “Instead of doing anything to help people who are struggling right now, we are here.”

Just eight days before the general election, Barrett now joins the high court. Her rushed confirmation further underscores how determined Republicans are to continue their work remaking the federal judiciary — and opens the door for a comparable Democratic response should they retake the Senate majority.

Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, briefly explained

With her confirmation, Barrett, 48, becomes the Supreme Court’s youngest justice and the first justice to be a mother of school-aged children.

Previously a judge on the Seventh Circuit and a longtime Notre Dame law professor, Barrett has also clerked for former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — and emphasized that her focus on originalism is similar to his. “His judicial philosophy is mine, too,” she’s said.

Barrett is also a devout Catholic, and she has written in the past about how faith relates to judicial decisions about the death penalty. She will also be among six justices on the court who subscribe to the Catholic faith.

As Vox’s Ian Millhiser has written, Barrett has the potential to roll back the Affordable Care Act, undo Roe v. Wade, and expand the interpretation of the Second Amendment as a member of the court. While she’s only been a judge for a few years, she’s critiqued the Court’s decisions to uphold the ACA in the past, and contributed to opinions that signal an openness to limiting abortion access.

Among the first cases that Barrett will consider as a Supreme Court justice is one examining whether the Affordable Care Act should be overturned: Pending any decision to recuse herself, she’ll weigh in on whether a change to the individual mandate — the tax Americans had to pay for not getting health insurance — would affect the validity of the entire law.

Much like previous judicial nominees, Barrett did not comment on how she’d rule on particular cases like this one. She has been critical of Justice John Roberts’s past opinions preserving the ACA. After the 2012 NFIB v. Sebelius decision, which preserved the ACA, she published an argument noting that Roberts’s conclusion “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.” There is reason to believe that she may view the current case differently, however.

There are outstanding questions about how Barrett would handle a slew of issues — including possible recusal in a case involving the upcoming election outcome, if that comes before the Supreme Court. Multiple Democrats had asked if Barrett would recuse herself from a case like this, since it could pose a conflict of interest given her recent appointment by Trump — who’d likely have a stake in the lawsuit. During her hearing, she declined to say whether she’d recuse herself, but noted that she’d take the steps needed to see if that would be appropriate.

Barrett with President Trump after her nomination to the Supreme Court at the White House, on September 26.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Overall, Barrett — following in the tradition of other judicial nominees — did not offer much indication on how she’d evaluate contentious subjects. But Democrats have expressed frustration at her evasiveness in general. She dodged a number of straightforward questions, included ones asking whether she believed that climate change was real and if she felt a president had the unilateral authority to delay an election.

This nomination process has fired up voters in both parties ahead of the election

Members of both parties have said that they’re fired up by the Supreme Court confirmation process, and the energy it has created could have an impact on the upcoming presidential and Senate races.

And for Democrats, the rapid-fire nature of Barrett’s confirmation, specifically, stood out as problematic — particularly since McConnell even told the White House to hold off on a badly needed stimulus agreement, in part, out of concern that it would complicate the timing of Barrett’s nomination, per the New York Times.

According to an October survey by Data for Progress, 47 percent of Democratic likely voters, 32 percent of independents and 47 percent of Republicans said that Barrett’s Supreme Court nomination was a factor they were considering as they headed to the polls. Meanwhile, 75 percent of likely Democratic voters think the entire confirmation process has been rushed, while 38 percent of independents, and 30 percent of Republicans agree.

Certain lawmakers on the Senate Judiciary Committee like Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kamala Harris (D-CA) have also used this opportunity to energize their respective bases as they vie for reelection and the White House, respectively.

In the long term, Democrats have signaled that Republicans’ willingness to expedite Barrett’s nomination has opened the door to similar actions on their part if they retake power. Progressive groups and lawmakers have urged Senate Democrats to consider modifying how the Court operates — or even expanding the size of the Court — if they end up winning the seats needed to do so, for example.

“Don’t think when you have established the rule of ‘because we can,’ that should the shoe be on the other foot, you will have any credibility to come to us and say: ‘Yeah, I know you can do that, but you shouldn’t,’” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) said earlier this month. “Your credibility to make that argument at any time in the future will die in this room and on the Senate floor if you continue.”

Barrett attends a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence at the US Capitol on September 29.
Erin Schaff/Getty Images


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Amy Coney Barrett Was Just Confirmed to the Supreme Court

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Judge Amy Coney Barrett will be the next associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Senate voted 52-48 to confirm Barrett to the nation’s highest court on Monday evening, just eight days ahead of the November 3 presidential election. Barrett, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit and a conservative darling, will replace the late, liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court and seal a 6-3 conservative majority that will likely last for years.

The vote, as expected, split almost entirely along party lines, with every Democrat voting in opposition to Barrett’s confirmation. The only Republican senator to break ranks was Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who voted against Barrett.

Senate Democrats had spent the last month fighting in vain against replacing Ginsburg, who died in mid-September after several bouts of cancer, before the election. They’ve tried to paint the confirmation process as a rushed and hypocritical sham, pointing out that, in 2016, Republicans blocked President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland on the grounds that a new Supreme Court justice shouldn’t be confirmed in an election year. (The GOP has argued it’s fine this time, because the same party—the Republicans—control both the Senate and the White House.)

“Elections have consequences, and what this administration and this Republican senate has done is exercise the power that was given to us by the American people in a matter that is entirely within the rules of the Senate and the Constitution of the United States,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican senator of Kentucky, just minutes ahead of the vote.

Democrats have also tried to highlight just how much power Justice Barrett, 48, will have to rewrite American law—and, potentially, shape the course of an election in which nearly 60 million people have already voted. Not only are issues like abortion, LGBTQ rights, and gun control likely to come before the bench in the coming years, but the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in another lawsuit over the Affordable Care Act on November 10, just days after the election.

During her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee two weeks ago, Democratic senators drew parallels to the legendarily conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who Barrett clerked for. When President Donald Trump introduced Barrett at a Rose Garden ceremony in late September, Barrett told the crowd of Scalia, “His judicial philosophy is mine.”

Barrett told the Democrats that she would make her own decisions on cases, rather than mirror Scalia’s. But she also largely avoided giving any clues about how she may rule on future cases or how she feels about some of the hottest political and legal issues in the United States right now.

In particular, Barrett evaded answering questions about the limits of presidential power: She declined to say if Trump can pardon himself, if a president can unilaterally move an election, or if presidents should commit to peaceful transfers of power. She has also declined to say whether she believes that systemic racism and climate change are real.

But Senate Republicans didn’t try to hide that Barrett, a devout Catholic, is personally opposed to abortion. Supporters of abortion rights fear that Barrett will help overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

When the Senate Judiciary Committee met last week to vote on whether to advance Barrett’s nomination, Democrats ended up boycotting the vote. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, the committee chair, waived the committee’s rules and held a vote anyway, without any Democrats president, to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate.

On Sunday, Democrats tried to filibuster Barrett’s nomination, to no avail.

“This Republican senate majority is breaking faith with you, doing the exact opposite of what it promised four years ago, because they wish to cement a majority on the Supreme Court that threatens your fundamental rights,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, told the American people in a speech before the vote. “And I want to be very clear with my Republican colleagues: You may win this vote and Amy Coney Barrett may become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, but you will never never get your credibility back.”

The Trump administration plans to swear Barrett in right after the vote, in a White House ceremony Monday. The Rose Garden ceremony where Trump first introduced Barrett is now suspected to have contributed to a coronavirus outbreak among Senate Republicans and White House staffers; Trump even tested positive for the coronavirus after the ceremony.

Barrett marks Trump’s third appointment to the Supreme Court, following Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Trump has also now appointed more than 200 federal judges and tilted the American federal judiciary towards conservatism for a generation to come.

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How an anti-democratic Constitution gave us Amy Coney Barrett

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In 2016, President Trump lost the national popular vote to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. He lost it by a lot — 2,865,075 votes, to be precise.

Meanwhile, the Senate just voted to confirm Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court. The vote was almost entirely along party lines, with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) crossing over to vote with all 47 members of the Senate Democratic caucus.

Yet, while pro-Barrett senators control a majority of the Senate, they represent nowhere near a majority of the entire nation. Indeed, the senators who voted against Barrett represent 13,524,906 more people than the senators who voted for her. (I derived this figure using 2019 census estimates of each state’s population. You can check my work using this spreadsheet.)

These two numbers — 2,865,075 and 13,524,906 — should inform how we view the actions Barrett will take now that she is one of the nine most powerful judges in the country. Barrett owes her new job to two of our Constitution’s anti-democratic pathologies.

If every American’s vote counted equally in a presidential election, Hillary Clinton would be president right now and Barrett would still be a law professor at Notre Dame. And if the Senate did not give Wyoming the same number of senators as California — despite the fact that California has more than 68 times as many people as Wyoming — Barrett would not have been confirmed.

And Barrett is not unique. The first justice in American history to be nominated by a president who lost the popular vote, and confirmed by a bloc of senators who represent less than half of the country, is Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first nominee. The second is Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s second nominee. The third is now Barrett. That’s half of the Supreme Court seats held by Republicans.

It is likely, moreover, that the Court’s newly enlarged Republican majority will make the United States even less democratic. Republican-appointed justices severely weakened the Voting Rights Act — the primary legal safeguard against racist voter discrimination — in Shelby County v. Holder (2013) and Abbott v. Perez (2018). Just last week, the Court divided 4-4 on whether to toss out an unknown number of ballots in the pivotal state of Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Republican Party, which hopes to see these ballots tossed out, has already asked the Supreme Court to take up this case again. With Barrett on the Court, the GOP may now have five votes to prevail.

And that’s just the beginning. The Supreme Court plans to hear two related cases this term, Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee and Arizona Republican Party v. Democratic National Committee, which could potentially dismantle what remains of the Voting Rights Act. At the very least, these cases are likely to weaken the nation’s protections against racist voting laws, adding to the damage done by Shelby County and Perez.

Giving states broad leeway to target Black and brown voters will also likely hamper the ability of the Democratic Party, with its multi-racial coalition, to compete for the presidency or for control of Congress.

American democracy, in other words, has slipped into a death spiral. Anti-democratic features of our Constitution enabled a party that does not enjoy majority support to gain power. That party is now entrenching its power by appointing judges who tend to be hostile to voting rights. And, as the courts hand down more and more decisions undermining the right to vote, Democrats will find it harder and harder to compete in national elections.

Democrats, however, may have a brief opportunity to pull the nation out of this death spiral. Right now, polls show Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden favored to win his upcoming election, and Democrats are favored to gain control over both houses of Congress.

If Democrats control Congress and the White House, they can add seats to the Supreme Court or enact other judicial reform measures that can dilute the influence of judges like Barrett and even reestablish a pro-democracy majority on the nation’s highest Court.

Even in the best-case scenario for Democrats, however, there is no guarantee that they will hold onto the Senate for more than two years. Indeed, because of Senate malapportionment, Republicans stand a decent chance of regaining control of the Senate in the 2022 midterm elections — especially if a Republican Supreme Court spends the two years between now and the midterms limiting the right to vote.

Democrats, in other words, will likely need to make a very difficult decision very quickly: add seats to, or drastically reform, the Supreme Court, or risk the further entrenchment of Republican power thanks to our anti-democratic Constitution.


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The United States is in the middle of one of the most consequential presidential elections of our lifetimes. It’s essential that all Americans are able to access clear, concise information on what the outcome of the election could mean for their lives, and the lives of their families and communities. That is our mission at Vox. But our distinctive brand of explanatory journalism takes resources. Even when the economy and the news advertising market recovers, your support will be a critical part of sustaining our resource-intensive work. If you have already contributed, thank you. If you haven’t, please consider helping everyone understand this presidential election: Contribute today from as little as $3.

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