“This isn’t just illegitimate; it’s a caricature of illegitimacy,” tweeted Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy during the confirmation process of President Trump’s U.S. Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, who is expected to be confirmed just days before the 2020 presidential election. Leahy says that Barrett’s appointment “diminishes [the Supreme Court’s] moral authority.” Leahy also discusses his views on court packing and the rising threat to abortion rights.
Leahy is the last of the Senate’s “Watergate babies,” the Democrats who were elected in November 1974, just months after President Richard Nixon resigned in scandal. Despite current challenges, Leahy remains hopeful about the future. “I really do believe in our better angels,” he muses. “We can do better and get over this.”
What is at stake in the 2020 election? Is democracy on the ballot? Howard Dean has a unique perspective that extends from the Green Mountains to the nation. He served as governor of Vermont from 1991 to 2003, ran unsuccessfully for president in 2004, and served as chair of the Democratic National Committee from 2005 to 2009. He has worked as a political consultant and commentator in the years since. “What’s going on is just shocking,” he says. “We’re in really serious trouble. When you abandon the rule of law as a democracy, your democracy is gone. And it’s going to be gone before people realize if we don’t turn this thing around.” Dean also discusses his thoughts on running for office again if Sen. Patrick Leahy does not run for re-election in 2022, or Sen. Bernie Sanders retires in 2024.
In June 2020, the US Supreme Court struck down Louisiana’s attempt to severely limit abortions. This came as a shock to many because Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal majority, seemingly reversing an earlier stand that he took against abortion rights. Professor Felicia Kornbluh, a scholar of abortion rights, attended the oral arguments and discusses what she saw in the Supreme Court, and the future of abortion rights. She also talks about her concerns about returning to campus to teach students during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her posthumous discovery about her mother’s crucial activism that led to winning reproductive rights in New York State in the 1970s. Kornbluh is currently at work on a book, How to Win a War on Women: My Mother, Her Neighbor, and the Fate of Reproductive Rights and Justice. (July 22, 2020 broadcast)
Felicia Kornbluh, Professor of History and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, University of Vermont