Supreme Court Setbacks: Time to Invest in Local Organizing.
Yesterday and today, the Supreme Court delivered heart-breaking setbacks in our long march toward a fair and equitable society.
Here’s what to know — both as a citizen, and as a donor with a stake in what comes next.
Supreme Court recap: Heartbreaking setbacks.
Nearing the end of its rightward-lurching summer docket, the Supreme Court:
- Reversed 40 years of precedent by ending affirmative action in college admissions.
- Struck down Biden’s plan to cancel up to $20,000 in student debt to as many as 43 million federal loan borrowers making less than $125,000 a year.
- Sided with a Colorado web designer who refused to do same-sex weddings, effectively emboldening public businesses to discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.
Takeaway: Grassroots organizing has never mattered more.
- Elections have consequences. Trump’s razor-thin 2016 victory, and appointment of three ultra-conservative Supreme Court Justices, made these devastating setbacks possible.
- We need to fund for the long haul. Our best recourse is to elect durable progressive majorities at all levels — and that will take long-term, sustained investments in deep civic infrastructure, not just funding political campaigns every 2-4 years.
- 2024 will set the trajectory for the next 10 years. If we end up with a GOP presidency, we may get another, younger, ultra-conservative Justice on the Supreme Court. BUT, if we hold the Senate and Presidency, flip the House, and get Gallego in Sinema’s Arizona US Senate seat, we can win back a likely Supreme Court seat, pass voting rights, and create fair congressional maps in time for the 2026 midterms — setting the stage for progressive political momentum for years to come.
- Grassroots organizing is our greatest hope. The role of local grassroots groups, and the donors who sustain their year-round work, has never been more essential. These groups provided Biden’s margin of victory in 2020, they saved the Senate in 2022, and they are our best hope in undoing the damage wrought by this Supreme Court.
MVP partners like Equality Arizona, One Colorado, and Equality Michigan Action Network (in whose state the newly-Democratic legislature just banned so-called “conversion therapy”) exist because we know lasting culture change and policy change to protect LGBTQ+ communities takes sustained, multi-year grassroots organizing.
MVP partners like Black Leaders Organizing Communities (BLOC), Black Voters Matter Fund, and Rise, Inc exist and are organizing year after year because, as our Senior State Strategy Director, Javier Morillo, put it: “We all understand that racism and its history are very much a reality, and we do not live in the made-up colorblind world that the Supreme Court majority just described.”
Analysis for funders: Racial justice funding in the crosshairs
There’s one potential implication from this week’s rulings that you won’t be hearing about in the news — but it’s one that could be substantially damaging for racial justice funding.
Essentially, conservative litigators could now point to this case as an argument for stopping funders from making grants and other decisions on the basis of racial justice and diversity.
As the Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equality points out, communities of color already receive only a meager 8-9% of foundation funding.
While it’s too soon to tell to what extent these predictions will play out, we are concerned that even the perceived risk of litigation may cause funders to decrease their targeted giving even further — and it’s our stance that we cannot allow this to happen.
Now more than ever, MVP stands with our local grassroots partners, who are largely led by leaders from and organizing in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities.
In closing: “Rage donate” — but invest strategically.
Locally-based grassroots voter groups were already the most overlooked, underfunded, and under-appreciated in their disproportionate role in winning elections, shifting public opinion, securing policy change, and building long-term power. We cannot leave them behind now.
As donors gear up to “rage donate” after these rulings (as so many of us did after Roe was struck down last June), it’s essential that we take a breath, remember that true political power always comes from the bottom-up, and double down in our commitment to local grassroots organizing.