Politics is a relentless series of debates. Some debates you win. Others you lose. Winning is, of course, invigorating and can make a cause feel worthwhile. And this success in politics provides hope and assurance that our hard work will help create lasting change. But, what happens when we lose?
My experience with the debate over Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court showed me that regardless of result, the debate is worth having. A powerful movement championing human, civil, and environmental rights arose in opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Although unsuccessful in preventing Kavanaugh’s confirmation, a loss, this movement showed me the power of assembly and how it feels to publicly share your truth.
I am currently in Washington D.C. interning for the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), and earlier this month, I attended the Cancel Kavanaugh rally hosted by the Women’s March on the national mall. People gathered in front of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals preparing to march to the Supreme Court, protesting the potential confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The environment was electric, with thousands in attendance. Signs reading “Kava Nope,” “Unfit to Serve,” “We Believe Survivors,” and “Respect my Existence or Expect my Resistance” were a few of the many gripping, witty, and diverse messages populating the crowd.
My work with LCV continues to show me the strength in speaking out and taking action. While the march was unified in its opposition to Kavanaugh, attendees represented issues and organizations across the progressive spectrum. Action was galvanized by the serious allegations of sexual assault by Judge Kavanaugh, yet the coalition in attendance brought attention to a wide range of issues concerning the nomination. I saw individuals sporting buttons and signs from GreenPeace, MomsRising, and ACLU to name a few. Before marching to the Supreme Court, Senator Elizabeth Warren even stopped by to offer words of encouragement and opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
Along with the anger and frustration I felt regarding Kavanaugh’s nomination, in joining the group of dissenters, I was overcome with a strong sense of empowerment. As I chanted and cheered along with the crowd, the march provided a platform for my opinions and my concerns. I felt connected to the people around me. We were united by what we felt, and it was uplifting to realize we had the opportunity to express ourselves publicly, together.
Ultimately, despite the protests, meetings, phone calls and hearings, Kavanaugh was confirmed by the Senate and is currently serving on the Supreme Court. Watching Senator Collins announce her decision to vote yes on Kavanaugh was incredibly disheartening, especially after the profound opposition voiced at Cancel Kavanaugh the day prior.
Nevertheless, the movement opposing Kavanaugh did not happen in vain. The Cancel Kavanaugh gathering was encouraging and energizing. The mass of peaceful protestors reminded me that many people concur with not only my disapproval of Kavanaugh, but championing human, civil, and environmental rights. A desire to speak up and fight with those who’ve been marginalized is what initially drew me to environmental issues, but sometimes it can seem like the Trump administration is testing us just to see how committed we really are. The administration’s efforts to rollback Mercury and Air Toxic Standards, repeal the Clean Power Plan, reopen offshore oil and gas drilling in the Atlantic, curtail the Clean Car Standards, and gut the Endangered Species Act are only a few of the ways they have tried to undermine the decades of progress we have made in protecting our environment and safeguarding our public health.
On top of the sexual assault allegations, Judge Kavanaugh’s abysmal environmental record made his confirmation dejecting, and as an advocate for the environment, it’s distressing when the outcome does not go our way. However, the unity and empowerment I felt at Cancel Kavanaugh was a reminder to stay encouraged and keep working. I won’t give up; I will continue to advocate for conservation and stewardship because I know a sustainable future for all is a healthier and safer future for all.