About 50 young conservatives gathered outside the Supreme Court today to protest what they say will be one of the defining political moments of their generation — the nomination of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The only truly organized "national" protest of the Kagan nomination in D.C. this week, the event was put together by a of coalition of groups representing the right-wing youth of America — Young Americans for Freedom, the Young Conservatives Coalition and the GOP Youth Convention.
For about an hour, they raged against the machinery that most political watchers agree will confirm Kagan's appointment to the Court by the end of the summer. And they took time to throw a few punches at Republicans and other conservatives they say aren't fired up enough by the Kagan proceedings.
"The fact of the matter is, years and years of college indoctrination and high school indoctrination has made Americans impartial," the 16-year-old YAF high school coordinator, Naphatli Rivkin, told me. "It's a real problem."
Rivkin was referring to the millions of conservatives he and others said should be upset by the Kagan nomination, but didn't bother to show up and make their anger known.
From the podium, the speakers railed against what they say is Kagan's obvious membership in that most insidious of societies, The Order Of The Activist Judge. The conservative complaints about the temporary curtailment of military recruiting at Harvard Law School while Kagan was dean, her self-professed "legal progressivism" and her record as a Clinton White House staffer on issues like guns and abortion played a prominent role in the protest. There was a special emphasis on the potential length of a Kagan term on the court, which, as the youth in attendance pointed out, could mean she'd be ruling with her socialism showing well into the protesters' middle age.
"If she serves as long as Justice Stevens, who she's replacing, she will be on the Court for 40 years," Carrie Severino of the right-leaning legal group Judicial Crisis Network told the gathered protesters. "So this is a decision that will have more long-lasting impact than any presidential election, than any senatorial election, probably even than the oil spill we're dealing with right now."
With so much on the line, I asked another speaker — Michael Johns, a self-described tea party founding member and former George H.W. Bush speech writer — why more angry conservatives weren't pouring out into the streets to take on the Kagan nomination. Johns said the tea parties will be "watching" when Senators vote on Kagan, and that they'll punish Senators who back her. He said that adding Kagan to the court was as bad if not worse than anything else the Obama administration and its Democratic congressional cronies have done to freedom-loving Americans this year.
Why aren't we seeing the thousands of people that made it to D.C. to protest health care reform here now, then? I asked.
"I think a lot of it is kind of the timing of it," Johns said. "If you look at the health care debate, it drew out for months and months and seemingly with every passing week the movement became more and more engaged, more and more organized and more and more articulate on the issue. [The Kagan nomination] is sort of, kind of — for us, there hasn't really been a lot of time between the announcement of the nomination and the vote."
Johns (who, it should be said, is not young) promised that there would be more Kagan protests across the country this weekend when tea partiers gather for July 4th.
But perhaps there's another reason things have been quiet in D.C. this week, despite the rhetoric on the right opposing Kagan. While Johns told me that "it's not over until it's over," when it comes to the Kagan vote, he acknowledged that Republicans likely don't have the votes for a filibuster, which means that Kagan would be confirmed by the full Senate.
Rivkin, who as one of the youngest members of the crowd might be excused for a little youthful idealism about the potential of Republicans to shut the Kagan nomination down, was just as cynical about the potential for the GOP to stop Kagan as Johns was.
"I'm not as optimistic as some here," he said. "Here's my feeling: Do I think Kagan is going to get confirmed? Yes. Democrats are going to vote right down the line and confirm her."