Former Secretary of State John Kerry branded the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy “devastating” at the Aspen Ideas Festival today, advising Democrats to “recognize that we’re in a new fight.”
The former presidential candidate and longtime Massachusetts senator said Kennedy’s “balance” makes the loss so bad, “because he was thoughtful.”
“That is going to change. I mean that’s, as far as I’m concerned, unless some Republican is prepared to go the other way, and I, given the current trend, would be very doubtful about that,” he said of Kennedy as the swing vote.
“But here’s the real message from it, folks, and I want to emphasize this: We’ve got to stop the day-to-day bloviating over our dislike and the daily tweets, and all the problems we see, and start connecting to Americans so that it’s not just buzzwords out there about the international order, or the post-World War II global structures, which are critical.”
Kerry added that “if we don’t define to people how those make a difference to their lives, it’s not going to matter.”
“And that’s what’s been missing. I mean, I look at the voting turnout of 2016. 54.2 percent of Americans decided to vote. I mean, that’s an astonishing figure. I’ve had privilege of being an election observer in Kenya, in Sudan, South Sudan, in the Palestine, and the West Bank, in Philippines. I’ve watched people stand out all day long to put their thumb on a piece of ink, purple, and have the privilege of voting, and they wait 12 hours and 13 hours, and you have 75, 80, 90 percent of the people vote,” he continued. “We, in our democracy, folks, are costing ourselves our own democracy because we’re not holding ourselves accountable.”
In focusing on midterm elections, Kerry said his party has “to reconnect to the average life daily struggle of Americans who are finding that globalization doesn’t work for them, of that Congress doesn’t work for them.”
“We have to strike a better balance of fairness in the minds of our fellow citizens, and only when we do that in a way that is fair — fair on immigration, fair on trade, fair on taxes, fair on all of the issues that make up the body politic of our country. That’s when we’re going to earn the right to lead and win, and that’s what we have to do,” he declared.
The “great challenge in America today,” Kerry said, is pushing back on “the increased polarization, obviously the increased populism, the nativism, the nationalism, the urges towards authoritarianism.”
“But they’re coming on the right and the left, and if we don’t recognize the similarities in anxiety and disquiet between our citizens on both sides, we will not adequately fashion the kind of consensus necessary to pull the country back together again,” he said. “So I think it’s urgent for us to begin to talk a different language ourselves at the national level, and you can’t just talk about civility, you have to show the civility and set an example for civility. And that means not getting involved. You know, when the president was Tweeting about me on the Iran deal, I did not respond on that.”