Kennedy’s Retirement Shouldn’t Be Our Focus

In a news cycle increasingly dominated by outrage and shortening attention spans, word of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement hit the public with an almost solemn dread. In the collective hangover from the news, there is an increasing worry about how this will shape our future, not just immediately but for decades to come. Has the ideological balance of the country been shattered? And must we give up our hard-fought victories — like healthcare and equal rights for all? While the answer is that we just don’t know yet, everyone should take solace in the one simple fact — it’s not over yet.

The American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s serenity prayer can’t help but come to mind:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.”

True, we as citizens can’t influence who is nominated for Kennedy’s seat, nor can we do much to stop it. However, the judiciary’s sole role in the government is interpreting the law, not creating it. It’s this reality that has allowed for some landmark decisions in recent years, such as Justice Roberts arguing that the Affordable Care mandate is constitutional because Congress has the right to levy taxes. And it’s this fact — that we as Americans can still control our government through legislating — that should keep us moving forward, even as the courts slide backwards. Simply put, there is work to be done.

So this November, we have to remember what it really means when we cast our vote. Our system was enshrined with a series of checks and balances between the three branches of government. And though, for a time, we’ve lost both the Executive and the Judiciary, that doesn’t mean we have to lose the Legislative. Because if we vote — if we make Congress truly represent the American people — then we have nothing to fear. We are a democracy, and democracies work best when they work for all.