President Trump’s latest nominee to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals is Steven Menashi — a right-wing provocateur who has written a slew of articles and op-eds denouncing diversity, women and LGBTQ+ rights. A federal appeals court appointment is very significant: The United States Supreme Court gets all the attention for its landmark decisions, but the United States Courts of Appeals are actually just as influential when it comes to interpreting our laws and legally defining our policies. Therefore, it’s crucial that we take Menashi’s nomination seriously, and push back while we can. Like many of Trump’s cronies, his journey of discrimination and hate-spreading has been a long and winding road.
Menashi’s policy ideas are frightening. While in college, his writings denounced LGBTQ rights and mocked anti-rape activists. He pushed xenophobic conspiracy theories and attacked need-based financial assistance for students because it “punishes families with the foresight and prudence to save for their children’s education.” Possibly most frightening is his belief in ethnonationalism — he has expressed ideas that a democracy can’t work unless a country is defined by one race or ethnicity.
Menashi has also spread dangerous lies about reproductive health — writing, without citing specific sources, that the procedure of abortion often involved infanticide. He has argued against the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage policy, opposed access to emergency contraception for college students and referred to abortion rights as “radical.” He is also closely associated with the Federalist Society — an anti-abortion group.
Menashi’s record shows a history of contempt for women, LGBTQ people, communities of color, immigrants and sexual assault survivors. Until recently, he was Betsy DeVos’s right-hand man at the Department of Education as she weakened access to public education and dismantled protections for LGBTQ students and survivors of sexual assault.
In his current role as special assistant and associate counsel to the president, Menashi is part of the immigration working group. He has worked closely with Stephen Miller to enact some of our nation’s most draconian, racist immigration policies that tear families apart and impact all of us, especially women.
During Menashi’s confirmation hearing, he was chided by Republicans and Democrats alike for avoiding questions and his past bigoted writings. It was a disastrous hearing, but ultimately, Menashi’s confirmation was rushed through simply because of his partisan nomination.
Trump is careless, unprepared and capricious, and will often nominate people just because he knows them, or because he liked how they looked on television. Frequently, this results in deeply unqualified nominees who even some Senate Republicans can’t stomach voting for. As the 2020 election approaches, it is important we pay attention to (and are willing to actively contest) appointees and nominees being rushed through by this administration.
Given the situation we are facing, it is heartening to see organizing in action. Strong opposition is rising in the face of one of Trump’s nominees, Sarah Pitlyk, whose career has been defined by opposing abortion. The Senate Judiciary Committee is advancing her nomination to U.S. District Court for Eastern District of Missouri. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, NARAL Pro-Choice America and the National Women’s Law Center have all been involved in educating the public on Pitlyk’s disturbing record. Meanwhile, the Women’s March and other partners have also been involved in call-ins and days of action against Menashi.
“As we continue to amplify and mobilize the deeply and widely held demand for Trump’s impeachment, it is also very important to educate the public and agitate the public around these appointments,” Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs, the director of community engagement for the Women’s March, told Truthout.
Resistance such as this is crucial, because these kinds of appointments will affect our political realities in the long-term. People like Menashi have no place in a United States Federal Courts of Appeals, when they have proven themselves completely incapable of unbiased justice-making when it comes to women, people of color and LGBTQ people.