WASHINGTON — A political war over replacing Justice Anthony M. Kennedy roared to life in Washington Thursday morning, just hours after the Supreme Court announced a retirement that could reshape the country’s judicial future.
Democrats and liberal advocacy organizations face enormous challenges if they hope to prevent President Trump and the Republicans from installing a conservative justice who would shift the ideological balance of the court for generations.
Mr. Trump has vowed to pick from a list of highly conservative jurists, and Republicans control the Senate, which can confirm the president’s choice by a simple majority. Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, has vowed to move swiftly once Mr. Trump announces his choice.
But the potentially monumental impact of Justice Kennedy’s departure appears to have lit a fire under Democratic lawmakers and liberal activists, who vowed Thursday morning to mount a vigorous fight in the hopes of preserving decades of liberal court precedents on abortion, civil rights, gay rights, affirmative action and the death penalty. Conservative organizations were mobilizing to support a quick confirmation of a justice who would be expected to vote against the court’s liberal precedents.
Democratic lawmakers gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court Thursday morning, flanked by members of progressive groups, to declare their opposition to all of the potential candidates on Mr. Trump’s public list of 25 possible jurists.
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, warned of the high stakes in filling the vacancy.
“Make no mistake: Republicans now have the opportunity to erase a generation of progress for women’s rights, L.G.B.T.Q. rights, civil rights, workers’ rights and health care,” Ms. Pelosi declared.
Liberal activists and Democratic lawmakers have demanded that a replacement for Justice Kennedy not be confirmed until after…