Why expand the court? End judicial life tenure instead

In the wake of Justice Ginsburg unfortunately passing away, calls to expand the Supreme Court have spread widely. Those proposals have a long history dating back to the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, but also carry consequences that most observers have not contemplated.

A better way to liberate the Court from the shackles of the past would be to end judicial life tenure and impose staggered 18-year terms for Supreme Court Justices.

Several potential solutions could supplement nomination & confirmation with a formal post-appointment check on the Court. The most crude — FDR’s — entails a legislative statute expanding the number of seats on the Court. A more sophisticated approach requires mandatory retirement for Justices, perhaps at the age of 70. Finer still is a regular schedule of retirements among Justices with staggered terms of service, so that each President appoints a new Justice every two years.

Portrait of the Justices of the US Supreme Court wearing their black robes while sitting in front of a red curtain.

Either a mandatory retirement age or fixed judicial terms would be immune to politicization. Unlike expanding the Court, both measures are substantively neutral: neither could be abused in order to subvert the Court’s independence or politicize its jurisprudence.

Alexander Hamilton discussed the centrality of judicial independence in the constitutional design in The Federalist №78. The judiciary is the crux on which liberty rests. Its independence is critical to enable judges to make decisions that fly in the face of social consensus—like the 1954 Brown v Board decision that began the process of desegregating the South.

But judicial independence has long been compromised, particularly by politicized nomination processes and strategic appointments of younger Justices. Meanwhile, while Republican presidents have swung for the fences by appointing extremely ideological Justices, their Democratic counterparts have settled for nominating prosecutors of color and calling it a day.

Between a mandatory retirement age and fixed terms, the latter is the better option. Mandatory retirement seems to ensure capable deliberation by preventing Justices from serving beyond their intellectual prime or past the time when they lose touch with the country’s changes. However, the incentives of a mandatory retirement regime would encourage Presidents to appoint younger and younger Justices in order to maximize the nominees’ time and influence on the bench.

In contrast to a mandatory retirement age, staggered terms would achieve the same goals (adding a post-appointment check without risking political co-optation), while avoiding the discouraging incentives of a mandatory retirement age. 18-year terms for Supreme Court Justices would also ensure that Justices enjoy an opportunity build institutional memory and expertise, yet still remain attuned to the social realities of the society they have great influence over.

While previous proposals envision implementing such a schedule many years after securing a legislative consensus, we favor a more immediate implementation. If Congress were to legislate 18 year-staggered terms, the first functional impact would be the removal of Justice Clarence Thomas.

While forcing Justices off the bench may seem alien, there is no positive basis for lifetime judicial service. Nor, for that matter, is it constitutionally required. The “Good Behaviour” Clause of Article III has traditionally been interpreted to require life tenure, but that reflects a self-serving interpretation by the very branch whose entrenchment stands at issue. Its purpose was to insulate the judiciary from political influence.

The Founders appropriately wanted judges to be free from political influence, but they could not possibly have contemplated Justices remaining on the bench for several decades, if only because life expectancies have expanded so dramatically since then.

As long as judges enjoy life tenure, expanding judicial life expectancies carry a crucial implication: they increasingly shackle our nation’s jurisprudence to the past.

Judges who serve long past normal retirement years can’t remain attuned to changing social realities. For instance, Justice Powell infamously claimed in 1986 to have never met a homosexual while deciding to demean LGBT rights, even as he relied on the labor of a gay clerk. Even when their health remains strong, judges inevitably lose touch with society. That’s a problem since they are empowered to limit our democratic decisions.

In any event, the goal of insulating judges from political influence can be achieved through better means than life tenure, without ensuring judicial calcification.

Staggered terms offer that opportunity. And because they present a neutral and predictable schedule for retirements immune to political influence, they can be reconciled with the Good Behaviour Clause.

Functionally, Congress could implement such a plan by mere statute. It would likely trigger litigation to resolve its constitutionality, giving Congress years to undergo the nomination & confirmation process and force the longest-serving Justice (at the moment, Justice Thomas) to retire in order to guard the institution’s legitimacy.

Staggered terms ensure judicial turnover without undermining judicial independence. They would introduce regularity and predictability in the nomination & confirmation process, rather than allowing the viability of our Republic to rest on the health of octogenarians.

We do need to protect our courts from the danger of politicization. But packing the Court isn’t the way to do it.

Eugenics? Forced sterilization? In 2020?!

Dear Friends,

I’m an immigrant. It’s one reason I value our democracy so deeply—it’s not something that I’ve ever taken for granted.

That might also be one reason I’m so deeply offended and outraged by the latest revelations of abuses in Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody.

Yesterday, a whistleblower in Georgia revealed that private prisons overseen by ICE sterilized migrant women in detention via hysterectomy. They performed these risky procedures without justifiable medical reasons and often without notice.

Women subjected to the procedures describe them as akin to human experimentation.

Forced sterilization is genocidal. It's racist. It's unacceptable. We once fought a World War against these atrocities.

We can't let government agencies get away with copying policies straight out of the Nazi playbook. We shouldn’t let the corporate politicians who funded these agencies off the hook.

The failure extends well beyond ICE.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called for an investigation by Inspectors General within the Department of Homeland Security. We obviously support that, but her response is entirely inadequate.

Congress has independent jurisdiction. There are committees tasked with overseeing these agencies that have apparently fallen asleep at their post. It took a whistleblower speaking to the press to expose lies that previously satisfied these oversight committees.

Pelosi never saw fit to initiate congressional inquiries into abuses at the border, nor has she embraced the long overdue step of defunding these agencies to force the transfer of their authorities.

She is preventing Congress from doing its constitutionally-mandated job. Can you stand with us to level the playing field and replace this key impediment to change?

As your voice in Washington, I will remain committed to closing ICE, CBP, and dismantling DHS. Only once we dismantle these agencies and transfer their responsibilities elsewhere can we have any hope of restoring international confidence in our commitment to human rights.

Many thanks for your support!


Punching up from beneath the boot


I wish my mother were still alive to see me today, to join in this work.

We all cover a lot of ground over the course of our lives, and when we stop to reflect, it can be astonishing. I know my mother would be delighted, even amused, to see how my days shake out as our campaign rockets toward election day.

I’m so grateful to be the first Democrat in 33 years to challenge the current Speaker of the House for San Francisco's seat in Congress.

When I was younger, I never even imagined being here—standing up and running for office.

My family moved from London to a small town in rural Missouri when I was only 2 years old. When I was in middle school, we moved from Rosebud—with a population of under 400 people, not a single stop light—to the suburbs of St. Louis. Until then, my connection to the world beyond our town had been through books. Being part of our faith community on the north side of St. Louis introduced me to wealth & income inequality, but I was light years away from sophisticated.

When I was 21, I was happy to simply have a roof over my head.

In 1991, my family lost our home to foreclosure. I was 17. For two years, I struggled with housing insecurity, bouncing from couch to couch. That fall, I started college at the University of Chicago—but had to leave before the end of the academic year because I couldn't afford it.

That was a rough time. I learned a lot about myself and the world we share.

I landed work at a bank and took community college courses at night. I worked to pay my way through school, graduated summa cum laude from Loyola University, and then moved west to study at Stanford Law.

As I learned and grew, I worked with others to organize direct action—resisting Bush’s wars and attacks on civil liberties. I advocated in courts to protect and expand civil rights and to get money out of politics. The next battle I joined was against the surveillance state—a decade of defending democracy—before entering the race to represent San Francisco in Congress.

I do not come to this struggle from privilege, political or otherwise. I am an immigrant who doesn't own property, who isn't from a wealthy family. Our team is confronting one of the most wealthy Members of Congress, who's had more than 30 years to build an opposition party, to fight for our values.

Your support means so much to our entire team. We cannot do this without you. While we’ve raised over $1 million to challenge the leader of the corporate Democrats, we’re still outgunned by a ratio of 15:1. And with Pelosi spending a million dollars every month on Facebook advertising alone, we have our work cut out for us.

Thank you for being part of this historic campaign. We—and I—could not do it without you.

In solidarity,


Rent is Due Despite the Pandemic. Why?

Today, millions of renters and homeowners struggling to endure the economic calamity of the coronavirus pandemic confront a Faustian choice: pay their housing costs, or instead feed their families. It didn’t have to be like this, however — and it’s not too late to put human rights before corporate greed.

Many who are still working (or who have accumulated savings) will write their monthly check. Most pay a corporation, property management firm, or bank.

Some — either because we recognize the power of collective action, or simply because they don’t have a choice — will join others around the country challenging a system that doesn’t care whether working people can meet their basic human needs.

We are part of a growing rent strike movement across the United States.

Shahid standing in front of the State of California building.
Joining the San Francisco May Day caravan to support the suspension of rent, mortgage, utility, and debt payments until after the coronavirus pandemic has cleared.

A rent strike is a long overdue response to the for-profit housing market and repeated public bailouts of banks, which are best positioned to bear the costs confronting struggling workers and their families.

The 2008 financial crisis was precipitated in large part by predatory lending by banks and financial institutions, which received billions of dollars in government bailouts. Everyone from Bernie Sanders to journalists, academics, artists, students, and activists across the country noticed that renters & mortgage holders received no help at all.

Banks receiving public funds — if not Congress — should have bailed out homeowners and renters. Congress should have put in place regulations to keep people in their homes. The housing market would have stabilized.

None of those things happened.

Instead, taxpayers bailed out the banks, most of which escaped the financial crisis unscathed. Rents continued to escalate, homelessness reached record levels, and real estate speculators made fortunes. Meanwhile, countless investment homes remain mostly vacant, misused as getaways for jetsetters — or even sitting vacant while the owner awaits market opportunities.

We should learn from that regrettable history, rather than repeat it today.

These are not new concerns. In 2011, tens of thousands of us responded to the 2008 bank bailouts by occupying public spaces in cities across the country.

Americans are still hurting.

Food security is threatened. Food banks are struggling since restaurants that normally donate surplus ingredients are closed. Meanwhile, the needs are growing: when I volunteered with the SF/Marin Food Bank at a pop up pantry in the parking lot at Mission High School, the line to pick up groceries stretched around the block. That was a month ago, and unemployment claims have skyrocketed since then.

Healthcare, too, is a challenge — especially during the pandemic. Millions of Americans with employer-based medical insurance lost coverage after getting laid off. Many, especially gig workers and the unemployed, couldn’t afford it even before.

A car participating in the California State Building with "cancel rent" posters
A participant in today’s caravan outside the California State Building at McAllister & Van Ness

Unlike 2008, Congress has at least included some relief for working class Americans in bailouts responding to the 2020 pandemic. That shift reflects the influence of House progressives and the Squad, which didn’t enter Congress until 2018. Meanwhile, thanks to Senator Bernie Sanders, the CARES Act also includes a substantial expansion of unemployment insurance to finally include gig workers and self-employed workers.

But the one-time payment of $1200 enabled by the CARES Act doesn’t go nearly far enough — for those who will receive it at all. It’s an improvement over the 2008 bank bailout, but doesn’t come close to meeting the challenges confronting millions of financially precarious Americans today.

The last thing our economy needs is a wave of renters and homeowners forced into bankruptcy or homelessness. Thankfully, the CARES Act includes 180 days of mortgage forbearance, and California has declared a moratorium on evictions. But those measures only delay the market forces confronted by renters and homeowners, who remain responsible for growing balloon payments in the near future.

Rent & mortgage payments were a struggle for too many San Franciscans even before the pandemic. Those whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the emerging depression stand with their backs to the wall.

That’s why I support a federal freeze and forgiveness of all rent and mortgage payments throughout the duration of the pandemic, embodied in Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Rent and Mortgage Cancellation Act. San Francisco is our nation’s most progressive city. We deserve a voice in Congress who will support it, rather than the interests of corporate landlords.

Congress may have failed to respond to the emerging housing crisis, but renters and homeowners confronting the costs of this pandemic are far from alone. Our allies include thousands of Americans with us in the streets (while keeping social distance) today — and thousands more silently participating in the largest rent strike in our nation’s history.

Protest sign: It's time! Our Pandemic Priorities (I) People over Profit
My favorite sign from today’s caravan in San Francisco

A voice from beneath the boot

Rep. Rashida Tlaib & Linda Sarsour address a rally promoting the impeachment of President Trump—which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi resigned by refusing to support charges based on Trump’s corruption.

Why I’m replacing Nancy Pelosi as San Francisco’s voice in the House

The future can’t defend itself. That’s why I’ve dedicated myself to defending it from the past.

Many Americans have grown “woke” in the face of the fascism apparent since Trump’s 2016 election. As an immigrant wielding a background in constitutional law, the rise of fascism in the U.S. has been painfully obvious to me for two decades.

Seeing through the illusion

I grew up in rural Missouri, where my Muslim family migrated from London in the mid 1970s. I came of age on the South Side of Chicago while working to pay my way through college, before studying & teaching law at Stanford, and then going on to lead a national non-profit organization in Washington dedicated to ending mass surveillance and protecting dissent.

My experiences reflect both the American dream, as well as the American nightmare.

My father worked around the clock, and did well as a real estate broker. When I was 10 years old, we moved from Rosebud, MO — a town of 300 people with no stoplights or schools — to suburban St. Louis. But we lost our home to foreclosure six years later as I graduated from high school.

Experiencing housing insecurity radicalized me. I give thanks for that time in my life, though I would not wish a similar experience on anyone. My friends in Chicago thankfully spared me from the most brutal aspects of homelessness — and without my struggles, I would not have the work ethic that has taken me so far since.

But those years on the South Side gave me the opportunity to see our empire from beneath the boot. At points, I struggled to survive.

Over the course of a decade, I went to night school to amass undergraduate credits while working full-time. After moving across the city to live closer to school, I was mugged by police officers a few blocks from my home.

My first memories of political consciousness came as a kindergarten student, in the context of learning about the genocide of Native Americans. The struggles that expanded my worldview also accompanied my studies as an undergraduate student struggling to pay for college.

Fighting a family dynasty

In contrast, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a powerful anchor of a political dynasty.

She was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, the daughter of a big city mayor on the east coast. Her brother served in Congress. Her daughter serves on the Democratic National Committee. Her nephew is the Governor of California.

Her net worth is well over $100 million. She represents the 1%.

And she does it well.

When the Bush administration invaded Iraq, I marched & took direct action with my neighbors to defend peace & civil liberties. Pelosi instead chose to fund the war & occupation, and built the mass surveillance regime.

She still advances conservative interests today.

Medicare For All is favored by bipartisan majorities and a majority of presidential candidates, but Pelosi opposes it. Pelosi derides solutions to the global climate emergency as “the Green New Dream, or whatever.” She imposes conservative fiscal austerity rules on an otherwise progressive Caucus.

Pelosi represents — and ultimately, imposes — a failed, predatory, corporate paradigm that threatens life on Earth with extinction.

Beyond disdain for climate justice & economic justice, Pelosi has also helped erode human rights.

Pelosi sacrificing human rights

She joined a continuing cover up over CIA torture in 2006. That, in itself, is a crime: international law requires a criminal investigation, and strict liability permitting no defenses or excuses.

We won a World War to establish that principle before Pelosi joined Bush — and Obama — in violating it.

In 2014, a Senate investigation generated a massive report documenting CIA international crimes. But it remains suspiciously classified, rather than public.

Her complicity in torture was neither the last time that Speaker Pelosi undermined human rights, nor was it the first.

This summer, Pelosi gave President Trump $4.6 billion for concentration camps, expanded surveillance, and border militarization. Despite documented atrocities, she secured no human rights protections. Stories of separated families, human rights abuses, and profound neglect continue to mount by the day.

In November, Pelosi forced the extension of the Patriot Act, an authoritarian law so odious that it was repudiated in 2013 by its principal author, Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI).

Her tendency towards authoritarianism is nothing new. Corporate Democrats have long overlooked CIA crimes.

In the 1990s, the CIA admitted that it ran crack cocaine into Miami & Los Angeles to fund its illegal wars in Latin America. While the Iran-Contra scandal revealed part of the Raegan administration’s criminal legacy, the CIA never faced accountability for expanding mass incarceration, killing police officers, and driving police militarization.

Around the same time, the CIA lost control over the mujahideen, freedom fighters it had trained & equipped in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. In the 90s, they rebranded as al-Qaeda and turned their CIA training against the United States. Accountability? Not so much.

Our war in Afghanistan has become our nation’s longest in history. We have spent over $1 trillion, and lost nearly 3,000 lives, for the Washington Post recently reported ultimately no discernible benefit to U.S. national security.

This was described by many Democrats as “the good war.”

Pelosi’s complicity in conservative agendas

Pelosi’s stance on “the bad war” in Iraq resembles her view on climate justice. She now claims to have known that the Bush administration lied about weapons of mass destruction. But if she knew the invasion was based on a lie, why didn’t she do more to stop it?

San Francisco never supported the War in Iraq. Why did our elected voice in Congress?

Pelosi also acknowledges climate science, yet does nothing to act on increasingly dire warnings by scientists. She opposes the Green New Deal. Why ignore facts that she claims to understand?

Pelosi enjoys a well-deserved reputation as a master legislator. But on whose behalf does she legislate?

The answer: corporations, wealthy Americans, and the executive branch. But Pelosi leads an independent branch of government. She’s sworn to check & balance the executive branch, not to empower it.

Pelosi’s complicity in a constitutional crisis

Many casual observers presume that Pelosi has challenged Trump based on the impeachment process. But the failure of the impeachment process was entirely predictable — and avoidable.

Long before Pelosi finally showed up for executive accountability after repeatedly declared her disinterest in impeachment, I published an analysis explaining how to impeach the president. Our nation’s leading authority on constitutional law cited my article as explaining why he shifted his view to favor impeachment.

I emphasized two crucial points. First, impeachment was (and remains) a constitutional imperative notwithstanding political calculations. It is not acceptable for a party to resign accountability (or a particular basis for it) because it is politically inopportune.

Second, conservative voters are particularly outraged by corruption. They could place pressure on GOP Senators if impeachment focused on the president’s misappropriation of public funds.

Pelosi chose another path.

By pursuing an impeachment process limited to a political crime, Pelosi effectively ensured that the Senate would not vote to remove the president from office. Democratic Party leaders claimed that inviting foreign interference in a U.S. election would be the easiest charge to explain to the public. That claim was spectacularly wrong, with disastrous consequences demanding electoral accountability.

Even while pursuing executive accountability, Pelosi continues to enable Trump. She took nearly a year to start an ultimately failed impeachment process, before limiting it to exclude Trump’s worst crimes against the public. She still supports the executive secrecy that enables torture, surveillance, and Trump’s corruption.

Whistleblowers are government employees & contractors who risk their careers to reveal facts hidden by — and sometimes from — their bosses. In most federal agencies, whistleblowers enjoy rights to prevent retaliation by supervisors who share an interest in silencing them.

Those legal protections, however, do not extend to intelligence agencies, such as CIA, NSA, FBI, ICE, or any of several DHS agencies with duplicative and wasteful intelligence offices. Intelligence agencies, uniquely, have the authority to silence dissident employees.

Nancy Pelosi supported this discrimination. She further enables secrecy by imposing a separate set of conservative House rules that senselessly deny most Members of Congress access to classified documents. As a result, only Pelosi’s hand-picked deputies can challenge officials’ lies about, for instance, NSA mass surveillance, or CIA torture, or the potential U.S. role in right wing coups in Brazil, Bolivia, and Venezuela in the last year alone.

A new voice for San Francisco

Many Americans share concerns that our future looks bleak. I’m running to replace Pelosi to help meet the needs of that future.

That includes expanding human rights to include healthcare, housing, and food. I know what it’s like for basic needs to be scarce.

I’m also running to defend our democracy from a bipartisan assault. A thief in the White House is bad enough. “Opposition” leaders who ultimately enable our criminal president are no better.

Our democracy is precious. I am not willing to stand by while career politicians like Nancy Pelosi continue to undermine it.

Over ten thousand Americans from coast-to-coast are supporting our campaign to liberate San Francisco’s voice in Congress. I look forward to representing them, and my neighbors in America’s most progressive city.

MLK’s Legacy Was Intersectionality

Dr. King rolls in his grave. Each of the intersecting evils he decried has grown only worse since he was taken from us.

Martin Luther King standing in front a crowd at the Washington Monument

As we celebrate Martin Luther King day, we should not only remember his forgotten legacy, but also its particular poignance at this moment in history.

Our nation has produced few heroes in the same league as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His unique contributions to our nation — by holding us “true to what we said on paper” — are reflected in the monument in his honor erected in Washington DC, the designation of a national holiday, and the effective beautification of his voice as an iconic representation of our nation’s most visionary ideals.

But we can’t pretend that his work was finished, or that the need to remember his legacy is simply an object of historical commemoration. The issues with which Dr. King struggled — both those that motivated him, and those that emerged to impede his progress — remain very much alive today.

The legacy he chose to leave us: intersectional analysis

King was driven by what we today describe as intersectionality. He explicitly addressed the intersecting evils of militarism, capitalism, and racism.

In the decades since his warnings, we have grappled with none of those issues, each of which has grown only increasingly metastatic since King’s era. And their intersections are even worse than the sum of their parts.

Nowhere in the world are those intersections more vividly demonstrated than Brazil, where a right wing resource extraction coup put in place a brutal dictator currently waging an ecocide with global consequences.

It may seem convenient to blame the coup on Brazilian politics, but a mountain of circumstantial evidence points towards the likely support of the CIA. We can’t pin the tail on the institutional donkey, because — as in King’s era — the executive branch and military-industrial complex keep their worst crimes secret.

That’s no hyperbole. In King’s time, Daniel Ellsberg emerged as “the most dangerous man in America” (as described by President Nixon before Ellsberg helped bring him down) because he offered information revealing the corruption of our war machine.

Today, many whistleblowers languish in prison — or in exile — because they dared to come forward to reveal information that We the People need to hear.

One reason Congress is so deferential to executive crimes is because Nancy Pelosi keeps Congress in the dark, by denying staff with security clearance to nearly every member of the House. That means that CIA torture, drug running, corporate coups to seize fossil fuels, and outright corruption go unchallenged — not because the White House and executive branch hide evidence of their criminal trails, but because a Democrat-controlled Congress enables their predictable (and otherwise untenable) efforts.

NSA surveillance went on for a decade before Snowden forced policymakers to finally confront (before ultimately again ignoring) the concerns that I and other advocates had raised for years. Who knows what crimes continue, or reflect the Agency’s sordid innovations?

No one at the CIA has ever been held accountable for anything. An unapologetic torturer openly leads the Agency, and was outrageously confirmed by Congress!

Our supposed commitments to human rights have been reduced to history lessons.

Dr. King rolls in his grave.

The legacy he was forced to leave us: state suppression of dissent

His memory is also relevant because of the government witch hunt that tried to drive him to his grave before his time. A documented plot that amounts to a foiled assassination attempt, the FBI attacked not only the rights of one individual, but given the esteem in which we now hold him, those of our entire country.

As with the issues that King chose to raise, we have grappled with none of those that his life forced us to consider.

In his era, a vicious government crackdown successfully sought the “neutralization” of social movements pursuing civil rights, environmental goals, peace in Vietnam, black power, indigenous rights, and gender equality. Groups around the country were infiltrated, leaders were pitted against each other or outright assassinated, and the American public did not hear the truth for decades.

The Counter-Intelligence Programs (CO-INTEL-PRO) shredded the rights of Americans and reduced our democracy to a mockery for nearly half a century.

Today, the FBI demonizes us, and others in the movement for black lives, as “black identity extremists.” By designating classes of suspects based on association, and their ideological commitment to due process principles, contemporary domestic intelligence practices effectively replicate the assault on the First Amendment of the FBI.

The state’s designation of thought-related crimes is not limited to the Movement for Black Lives. Activists who have taken action to resist the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure — such as pipelines — have also faced vicious and unrelenting state pressure, including human rights abuses by private contractors. Those mobilizing to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline and defend indigenous rights were threatened by attack dogs and doused with firehoses in the dead of winter.

When constitutionally protected protests greeted President Trump’s inauguration, the Justice Department sought to identify every person who had ever visited the website promoting the protests, while viciously prosecuting many who participated.

The dangers of thought crimes

The way our law enforcement authorities evaluate thought crimes also reflects a dangerous discrimination. Attacks by right-wing extremists, often dismissed as “mass shootings” have grown disturbingly routine. The Bureau seems to turn a blind eye to this well-documented and pervasive white nationalism, despite longstanding warnings.

If ideological profiling poses one set of threats to dissent and democracy, mass surveillance presents another. In some respects, they are each the inverse of the other: ideological profiling is (discriminatorily) targeted, while the surveillance regime collects information from more or less all of us (indiscriminately) en masse.

But the threat they pose to dissent is the same.

Whether due to the ideological or racial profiling to which vulnerable individuals know they are subject, or the mass surveillance practices that would inhibit a well-informed critic, both vectors of state monitoring chill dissent, association, and speech.

But beyond the rights of individuals to pursue those rights, state surveillance also offends and undermines the value that those rights, in turn, were constructed to protect: our democracy.

What Dr. King’s legacy means today

Worse yet, both the attack on ideology and mass surveillance enjoy the support of most corporate Democrats in Washington. They fail to appreciate the value of the civil liberties that keep us safe from our government, especially in times of crisis like these.

Dr. King’s legacy is not simply an abstract excuse for a day off of work. It is an invitation to remember his principles. They once inspired our civilization.

He raised issues of intersectional justice, recognizing how wars for profit, domestic poverty, and racial marginalization are all inextricably connected. And his success was met with an authoritarian attack on dissent and democracy.

He faced a tougher road than we do. And the justice that he sought remained elusive during his life.

Yet he promised that “We shall overcome,” and that “while the arc of the moral universe may be long, it bends towards justice.”

We today will determine his accuracy. We can either celebrate today’s holiday as a day home from work, or instead grow inspired by it to continue the unfinished work that Dr. King began.