Working people have been handed some tough losses at the Supreme Court over the past few weeks; it both lifted the federal eviction moratorium and silently laid waste to the remnants of Roe v. Wade. We should all feel rage that because of the whims of an unelected, conservative, and capitalist Court, more families will find themselves thrown out of their homes and fewer people will be able to access abortions.
But while we feel that anger, let us also remember: For the poor among us, many laws are overturned every single day by local judges, police, employers, and landlords. For many of us, a point of no return was not crossed last week — it had been crossed long ago.
In Philadelphia and across the country, the poor and working class have been evicted during the pandemic when landlords just changed the locks and nobody stopped them, or scared tenants into leaving the home, or even sought and received the outright approval of a court. The same type of thing is true of reproductive rights: poor people were unable to get abortions long before last week because they couldn’t take multiple days off work, they were manipulated by a crisis pregnancy center, or they were bullied out of it by family or community.
Yet despite this reality for many Americans, last week we saw wall-to-wall coverage of the Supreme Court’s decisions from the mainstream press, centrist politicians, and prominent lawyers — but silence from these actors both before and after. That silence is no accident. Our political and cultural elites demand we focus on the Supreme Court rather than the evictions, denials of abortions, and every other daily inhumanity because it justifies the unjustifiable: It tells us that we’re a nation of laws, that the courts decide what rights we have, and that there is justice in it all.
As socialists, we know this is a lie. We all know, for example, that Brown v. Board means nothing to the millions of children who, today, learn in segregated, toxic, and inadequate schools some 65 years after the Supreme Court waxed grandiloquent about the “inherently unequal” nature of segregation. By directing our attention unceasingly toward the Court, elites cause us to believe that the Court really is the solution to our problems — and consequently that we are little more than audience members in a national drama we’re unlikely to ever influence. And conversely, they cause us to forget that the people who really determine most of our rights are the people most proximate to us: the cop who pulls us over, our landlord or boss, a local school board. And as long as a huge swath of people have no power in relation to these local tyrants, the laws as written mean little.
Let’s not fall for the trap. Philly DSA is organizing across the city in the workplace, at home, in our schools, and more. Whether you’re a new member or have been with us for a while, we need you to get involved. Together, we will build power for the working class in the face of the petty tyrants who would control us.
In other words, the dominant narrative about the Supreme Court (and the law more generally) causes us to lose focus over those in our own backyards who we can influence and over whom we can exercise power — if we are organized.
Isn’t it time to do something? Get involved with the Local.