Protesting outside of SCOTUS judges’ homes is good, actually

Heaven forbid the most powerful, unaccountable figures in the country might be moderately inconvenienced!

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 5:  Judge Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee...
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Pearl Clutchin'

To hear conservative media tell it, the streets of Chevy Chase, MD ran red with blood this weekend. While good, god-fearing suburbanites cowered in their multi-million dollar homes, hoards of crazed anarcho-socialist-leftist-antifa-radicals turned their quiet, upper class neighborhood into the sort of fiery urban hell typically reserved for Republican attack ads about Minneapolis or Chicago.

In reality, a group of around 100 reproductive rights activists rallied outside the homes of Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and John Roberts — both of which were under the strict watch of law enforcement details — braving the Saturday rain to hold women’s rights placards and chant abortion access slogans.

A mild nuisance for residents in the nation’s platonic ideal of a rich liberal enclave? Perhaps, although, as Chevy Chase resident Emily Ewers told WUSA, “it is such a high stake situation that if it is a little noisy in the neighborhood, in comparison to what people in the country are facing, it’s not a big deal.”

Indeed, there’s a bittersweet irony in the conservative sputtering about privacy and incivility simply because a few dozen people stood outside the homes of immeasurably powerful, lifetime appointed judges who are poised to rob millions of their right to make their own healthcare choices. The same right wing pundits and activists who were so eager last year to downplay a full blown assault on the capital as simply a patriotic exercise in free speech are now wringing their hands over an astronomically more benign reaction to an actual assault on bodily autonomy. Nor is the pearl clutching limited solely to overtly bad faith actors on the right; plenty of mainstream “centrists’ and liberals have spent the past few days adding their voices to a Helen Lovejoy-esque chorus decrying the fact that some of the most powerful, unaccountable figures in the country might be moderately inconvenienced.

This “civility” trap rings particularly hollow given the long, well documented history of overt anti-abortion violence against healthcare providers, as well as the ongoing right wing hysteria that regularly threatens public figures like Dr. Anthony Fauci, and which forced Kavanaugh sexual assault accuser Christine Blasey Ford to flee her home and live in hiding.

Unsurprisingly, when the Biden administration — an institution that prides itself on embodying the sort of milquetoast blandness that’s come to define the bulk of the Democratic party of late — did speak up about the rallies taking place to defend reproductive healthcare rights, it managed to do so only with a mealy mouthed acquiescence to the conservative paradigm that there is a right and wrong way to protest.

...okay..? I’m not entirely sure what violence, threats, or vandalism against judges Psaki is referring to here, but it’s depressingly clarifying to know that a Democratic administration that currently enjoys Democratic control over both chambers of Congress feels the need to qualify their support for what is ostensibly a tentpole issue in the Democratic party, rather than offering a full-throated defense of the vast majority of the country that agrees with them. What purpose does this statement serve beyond standing as an attempt to project a sense of civil normalcy to a conservative party that only cares about that sort of stuff when they can use it to gain ground on credulous Democrats?

There is, to be sure, an argument to be had about the efficacy of protesting outside the homes of supreme court Justices; what are the goals of such protests, and is this how they can best be achieved? But the conservative-led effort to solely scrutinize and critique the methods of protesting, and the Democrats’ willingness to play along only serves to obscure the larger, more significant issue that’s pulled so many people onto the street in the first place. The more people keep pointing out the trees, the easier and easier it is to ignore the forest of which they’re a part. Conservatives want to suck up airtime and attention spans talking about how horrible abortion rights protests are, rather than address the fact that it’s their policies that will result in millions of women losing the ability to make decisions about their own bodies.