To be honest, while I don’t necessarily love the direction the country is heading, I’m able to write-off most of my gripes on a daily basis and focus on going about my life. I surround myself with friends who don’t really talk politics, nor do they much care.
In other words, I feel like – despite my musings on my blog and on Twitter – I’m one of the few in the country who hasn’t devolved into a debilitating political psychosis that won’t even let me order a 10 piece McNuggets at a McDonald’s drive-thru window without blurting out my love or hatred of Donald Trump to the apathetic 18 year old who is half serving me my meal, half watching TikTok videos on their phone.
But there’s been one political consideration lately that has really perked up my senses. It’s the first political idea being floated recently that I truly think has the potential to provoke civil unrest in the country.
Since the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade, talk has escalated about packing the Supreme Court. “Packing” the court simply means adding more spots for more justices so your part can control the minority. In essence, it would amount to stealing the Supreme Court.
Yet there’s been a surprising amount of mainstream media headlines that seem to be advocating for the plan. It has been called a method for “fixing” the Supreme Court by Vox and New York Magazine recently published an article saying that Democrats “must reform” the court in order to “save it”.
An opinion in the Guardian recently said that Republicans have “hijacked” the Supreme Court:
While CNN is pandering to the civics majors watching the network with articles like this one, which tackles the really tough question: what the hell is the Supreme Court anyway and why does it have “so much power”?
For an idea of exactly how the left feels about the judiciary, take these excerpts from the above Guardian op-ed.
Many on the left feel like they can apply “an eye for an eye” when the majority isn’t in their favor. Imagine if we took this stance with with Congress:
This is not court packing. It is balancing a court that has already been packed.
The left believes that the court has truly been implemented in its current form (which now includes 4 women and 3 people of color) to “twist the rule of law” and that because the constitution “offers no guidance about number of supreme court justices”, that it is fair game to just make the change.
This of course, puts the court on a slippery slope where each elected official will expand or contract the court to their base’s liking:
An extreme conservative majority holds absolute control over the court. They will likely hold this power for multiple generations. They intend to use it to impose a far-right vision that most Americans oppose, twisting the rule of law into whatever they say it is, depending on the ideological outcome they hope to achieve.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The US constitution offers no guidance on the number of supreme court justices. While it has stood at nine for some time, it has not always, and need not for ever. If Republicans have hijacked the court to force a minoritarian agenda on the nation, the court must be expanded and reformed to counter a rightwing power play that threatens to remake American democracy and life itself.
The left also complains that the supreme court was constructed using “dark money” and that they are playing “brutalist constitutional hardball”. But, pardon me for asking, isn’t “brutalist constitutional hardball” what the Supreme Court is there for?
How can the court “remake” Democracy by adhering to the constitution?
Let’s be clear: this is a court that has been constructed to thwart the will of the people with the help of hundreds of millions in rightwing dark money, by playing brutalist constitutional hardball ripped from the autocrat’s handbook, and by exploiting the same structural inequities in redistricting, the US Senate and the electoral college that helped protect slavery and then Jim Crow. This supreme court has now placed itself above the people and above the law. Simply because they have the power. Simply because they can.
Despite recent rulings not going the way the left had hoped, it doesn’t change the fact that all of the judges on the court have been lawfully appointed.
Ergo, the idea of fundamentally changing the court in such a fashion – literally re-writing the rules because you’re losing – could be far more incendiary than the left thinks – even if they’re just trying to defend their “liberal world order”.
As we all know: “the Checks and Balances system provides each branch of government with individual powers to check the other branches and prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful.” The whole point of having the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government is to ensure that one doesn’t always agree with the other.
The idea of packing the Supreme Court as an end-around to this failsafe flies in the face of why we were the first country to enact separation of powers to begin with and why our country has made it far more difficult to amend our constitution than other countries. (If you really have nothing to do today, Justice Scalia’s 2011 testimony on the Constitutional Role of Judges is worth a watch about this topic here.)
But the climate in the country right now is perfect for it to happen. The President is malleable and confused, the left feels emboldened and justified to do it because of Roe and the right has never been more adamant about upholding and defending the government and system that has gotten the country to where it is today.
It’s not only the perfect storm for the left to try it, it’s the perfect storm for the right to stand their ground against it.
This is precisely what worries me. Other than my concerns about the idea of packing the court to begin with (I’m vehemently against either side doing it), I worry about the consequences if the left tries to do it. I predict even further division in our country which has seen both of its political sides already lose their way.
The further away we move from the Roe decision, whether you agree with it or not, the less likely the base is to do something drastic, in my opinion.
I’m optimistic that if the Republicans win overwhelmingly during mid-terms, that the left will start to realize that the gears of government are going to move even slower during President Biden’s last 2 years in office regardless of what they do. Hopefully, this will disincentivize them from considering the idea of packing the court. Even President Biden so far seems “unenthusiastic” about the “thorny” idea.
But that doesn’t mean his radical left base is.
It’s specifically the months heading into mid-terms that I’m worried the most about.
What the nation needs now, in my opinion, is bipartisan adherence to the law (both for government and in civil society) and the constitution – an effort by both parties to start to meet in the center, instead of pulling their respective bases even further apart from one another. Eventually, if we keep pulling in opposite directions, something’s going to snap – and packing the supreme court will only serve to speed up the division.