This is not the most wonderful time of the year. As late June rolls around each year, when the U.S. Supreme Court wraps up its latest decisions, I brace for whatever damage Antonin Scalia and his conservative majority will do to our country.
They didn't disappoint this year. The Hobby Lobby decision allows about 90% of for-profit employers to deny health insurance coverage of contraceptives to their female employees. No one knows how far this will go, but it's possible that the decision will open the door to all kinds of creative interpretations, none of them good. If an employer has a religious objection to the minimum wage, would he be exempt from providing it? And if he were exempt, wouldn't a lot of employers suddenly find religion?
In truth, it's not all the fault of the conservative justices. Their decision was an interpretation of awful legislation (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) passed two decades ago by a Democratic Congress and supported by President Bill Clinton. Still, four other justices offered a more appropriate interpretation of the law. One more would have flipped the decision in a different direction.
So, a better world is not that far away. Take heart from soccer. One explanation for the explosion in interest in the World Cup this year is demographics: Hispanics and millennials love the game, and they are taking hold. They also tend to be liberal voters. The connection hasn't been lost on conservative commentators like Ann Coulter, who see growing interest in soccer as a harbinger of the destruction of the American way of life.
Republicans are going out of their way to alienate Hispanics by standing in the way of immigration reform, millennials by standing in the way of progress on a host of issues they care about like global climate change, and even suburban women by attacking reproductive freedom of choice. More and more, it is becoming clear that the Republicans are retrenching to become a party of ultra-conservative, Christian, rural, aging white men. They're not building a bigger tent. They're buying a pup tent.
It is hard to see how Democrats don't hold the White House -- and its most important power in the ability to appoint Supreme Court justices -- for the foreseeable future. Even once deeply red states, like Georgia, Texas and Arizona, will be in play for the Democrats in the next presidential election because of growing numbers of Hispanic voters.
This will take awhile. Of the justices who formed the conservative block in the Hobby Lobby case, Scalia is 78, as is Justice Anthony Kennedy. But Samuel Alito is only 64, while Clarence Thomas is 66. Chief Justice John Roberts is a kid at just 59.
But they don't all have to retire tomorrow. Just one retirement of a conservative replaced with a liberal justice will flip the court on a lot of cases and two will form a more or less solid liberal majority. It's hard to see how, in the next decade or so, that will not happen.
Better times are ahead.