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Barrett Confirmed: Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Alicia Garza on GOP’s Supreme Court Power Grab

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As right-wing judge Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in as the ninth justice to the Supreme Court of the United States, just 30 days after President Trump announced her nomination and eight days ahead of the November 3 election, we speak with Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza, who says the rushed confirmation shows that the Supreme Court “is not a neutral body — it is incredibly political.” Barrett’s confirmation to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just six weeks after her death seals the court’s 6-3 conservative majority potentially for decades to come and could have major consequences for reproductive rights, civil rights, environmental protections, the Affordable Care Act and the 2020 presidential election. “It is concerning that Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed yesterday, particularly given her complete lack of qualifications for the role, but also considering her extreme views on everything from reproductive justice and reproductive rights to civil rights and racism,” says Garza, the principal at Black Futures Lab and co-founder of Supermajority.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Conservative Judge Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as the ninth justice to the Supreme Court of the United States Monday night, just 30 days after President Trump announced her nomination and eight days ahead of the November 3rd Election Day, as tens of millions of people have already cast their ballots this election season. Barrett’s confirmation to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just six weeks after her death seals the court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority potentially for decades to come. She’s President Trump’s third appointment to the court. The Republican-controlled Senate confirmed her by a 52-to-48 vote along party lines, with only Maine Senator Susan Collins the lone Republican voting against her. No Democrat supported her. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas swore Barrett in on Monday night at a White House ceremony.

JUSTICE AMY CONEY BARRETT: The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor, and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences.

AMY GOODMAN: Barrett was sworn in just hours after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled Wisconsin could not extend its mail-in ballot deadline. She’ll join justices in deciding other key voting rights cases in the coming days, including Democratic efforts to extend the deadline for counting mail-in ballots in North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Later this week, the Supreme Court will also consider whether to hear a key Mississippi abortion case that could challenge Roe v. Wade. And the court is set to hear arguments in a case that could scrap the Affordable Care Act on November 10th, one week after Election Day.

For more on the consequences of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation and much more, we go to the Bay Area in California, where we’re joined by Alicia Garza, the principal of Black Futures Lab, which she co-founded to make Black communities powerful in politics. She’s also co-founder of Supermajority along with Ai-jen Poo of the Domestic Workers Alliance and Cecile Richards, former head of Planned Parenthood. Alicia Garza is also co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network. Her new book is just out. It’s called The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart.

Alicia, welcome back to Democracy Now! It’s an honor to have you with us.

ALICIA GARZA: Thank you so much for having me.

AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t we start off with what just happened last night? President Trump nominated Amy Coney Barrett before Ruth Bader Ginsburg was buried. It was just eight days before the election that she was confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Eight months was the time period that the Republican majority in the Senate refused to even have a hearing on President Obama’s pick in 2016 for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland, saying it was just too close to the election — eight days versus eight months. If you could comment, Alicia, on the significance of, well, now Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s views on everything from reproductive rights to LGBTQ issues and beyond?

ALICIA GARZA: Absolutely. Well, first and foremost, it’s so good to be here with you, Amy. Good morning.

You know, this confirmation does have serious consequences. And I think what we’re seeing is that the Supreme Court is actually not a neutral body — it is incredibly political. And the acceleration that you talked about by President Trump and Senate Republicans really has everything to do with the fact that they are moving an agenda that they’ve been building for more than 30 years now, but they’re also concerned that they won’t have an opportunity after this upcoming election to continue to wield power in the way that they have been. And so, certainly, I think you see both things colliding here.

It is concerning that Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed yesterday, particularly given her complete lack of qualifications for the role, but also considering her extreme views on everything from reproductive justice and reproductive rights to civil rights and racism. You know, she has declared, in front of Clarence Thomas, who we know has a long record of denying things that exist in this country, including racism — but she declared, in front of the country, that she was going to lead in a way that was impartial and in a way that was independent of both parties. But I think we shouldn’t be comforted by that in any way.

What we’re seeing here is a tip on the Supreme Court not just towards a conservative majority, but a conservative majority that has extreme views. And that is something that we should be concerned about, because the impact is, is that these are justices who are on this court for life. And so, no matter what the changes in the administration are, this extreme conservative majority will continue to exist on the Supreme Court, unless, of course, there is a favorable outcome in this upcoming election cycle. And really what that would look like is Democrats taking the Senate, Democrats keeping the House, and, of course, Democrats changing the balance of power in the White House. It’s a big hill to climb, but, you know, we’ll see what happens over the next couple of weeks.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Alicia Garza, as you’ve mentioned, the extreme nature of the court now, no matter what happens in the election, there will still be that makeup afterward. As an organizer who’s spent now decades now organizing local communities, what do you see as your role past the election in terms of helping people organize in dealing with a hostile court?

ALICIA GARZA: Well, it’s important for us to understand that the composition, or at least the size of this court, is not actually determined by any rules. And so, you know, as an organizer, what I like to say is there are always chess moves to make, but you have to build the level of power necessary in order to enact those moves. And that’s exactly what I would say to folks who are watching and listening today.

You know, we are just a week away from one of the most important election cycles in a generation. And I think it’s important for us to understand that elections are an opportunity to really demonstrate our power. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate who we have won over. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate how we have won hearts and minds, what types of coalitions and alliances we have built, to build the widest possible movement.

However, voting and elections are not the end-all, be-all. The organizing is important before, during and after election cycles. And so, certainly, I know for my team at the Black to the Future Action Fund, we’ve been talking a ton about what happens in between election cycles, you know, what happens no matter what is going on in the White House. And what we do is we train local leaders to be able to change the rules in cities and states.

And I think that is actually democracy. It’s getting more power into the hands of more people. And in order for us to do that, not only do we have to organize, but we really have to close the gap between how government functions and how people participate in it and what they participate in. Frankly, we have an unprecedented opportunity to transform the direction of this country, but it’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not going to happen on November 3rd. But it will happen with clear strategy and an orientation that our mandate from this moment forward is to add and multiply rather than subtract and divide.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, and speaking about the upcoming election, apparently about 50 million people have already voted. That’s about 40% of what the total vote was back in 2016 have already cast ballots, and we’re still several days away from the main voting day on Election Day itself. I’m wondering your sense of the — everyone is predicting possibly historic turnouts, but the question is: Who will turn out? Will it be — because there are so few people that are undecided right now, the question is: Will each side — what will be the ability of each side to mobilize its base of voters? What’s your sense right now of the enthusiasm or lack of enthusiasm within the African American and Latino community in terms of this election when it comes to Biden or Trump?

ALICIA GARZA: Well, you know, I think it’s an important question, and I want to start off by saying that, absolutely, all predictions say that this will be the largest-turnout election in history in this country. And I do think that that does say some things.

What we’re seeing in Black communities and Latinx communities is that folks are being activated, and they’re being motivated. And it’s not because of what’s happening right in this minute. It’s because our communities have been being organized over the last four years or more, and our communities have been engaged over the last four years or more. These are lessons that I think are important for political parties to really invest in. And the trusted community-based organizations that are in our communities have really taken up the lion’s share of the work in making sure that our communities know what’s at stake, that our communities know how to protect their vote, and that our communities understand that the real work happens on November 4th.

With that being said, I also think it’s important to say that the outcome here is not assured. And it’s not assured because it’s not really just about turnout. It’s not just about people casting votes. It’s certainly also about making sure that this president performs a peaceful transfer of power and also upholds the integrity of the election itself. And we have already heard from this president that he does not plan to do that. So it is important also for everybody who is casting votes to make a plan to protect your vote and to make a plan to protect your right to vote.

I will say that who is turning out is Black folks, Latinx folks and women. Women are an incredible constituency that is turning out, I think, across the nation, particularly throughout communities in the South We are seeing lines of three, four, five and six hours. And I don’t know about you, Juan, but I don’t stand anywhere for six hours unless I really want to make sure that I get what I need. And so, I think what we’re seeing here is that because of these voter suppression efforts, where voting has not been protected and expanded — right? — we’re seeing these long lines, but I think, even within that, it’s important for us to understand that there is a real commitment that folks are showing to have their voices heard.

And lastly, I will just say that one of the things I feel is so, so important in this upcoming cycle is that we do start to think about what happens next. You know, honestly and truly, I think what happens on November 3rd is just the beginning of a cycle that we all have to continue to pay attention to. I’ve been saying to folks, you know, don’t expect to have the election results on Election Day, because of the influx in mail-in voting, but also because of some of the machinations that this administration in particular has been trying to enact and administer. It may be a couple of days or even a few weeks before we actually understand what’s happening here. And so it’s important for people to stay vigilant, to not turn away or disengage, but to make sure that we see this thing through all the way to the end.

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