The presidential debates have been a fever dream to say the least. One of the most contentious issues of the night was the Supreme Court: in an eye-roll inducing tirade, Vice President Mike Pence pushed Kamala Harris on the question of court-packing. While it’s perhaps unfair to expect Harris to take a strong stance on the issue, it felt like she punted on the question. Also, despite Pence’s hand wringing feeling very cynical, it weaponized something many Democrats have been doing for far too long: putting more value into the “process” than working to exercise power.
For the last four years, Democrats have been diligent in spotlighting President Trump’s blatant disregard for our democratic process: sending the military into our cities, implementing racially-targeted travel bans, and signal-boosting bigotry from the far-right. It doesn’t take an expert to know he’s a threat to this country’s well-being. It also doesn’t take one to understand that being outraged and being proactive aren’t the same thing. Not only that, Democrat outrage over the corruption happening across the aisle rings hollow, especially to millions of Americans who see the two parties as equally crooked.
The GOP for the last few decades has worked to roll back many big laws that have helped a lot of people. Democrats need to take chances and expanding the Supreme Court under a Biden presidency is worth pursuing. When Obama tried to nominate Merrick Garland after Justice Scalia’s death, the senate outright rejected it. Since that time Republicans have been able to get a 5-4 majority in the court, and might get a supermajority if they successfully swear-in Amy Coney Barrett. They’ve never played fair, but that calls for better strategy, not finger-pointing.
Many progressives have correctly pointed out how anti-democratic the Supreme Court is, and some are even talking about limiting the court’s power. This is something well-articulated by Yale Law Professor Samuel Moyn in his recent interview with Democracy Now. “We shouldn’t allow an institution that can mess…with some of our most progressive laws” said Moyn. Just as the Court approved the Civil Rights act of ‘64, they also approved the Patriot Act. And while the people who filled those sheets changed in between just those two landmark bills, it’s fairly troublesome in a so-called democracy for a small group of judges to outright reject broadly popular policies. Weakening the Supreme Court’s power is a long-term project that will take decades. In the meantime, Democrats should use anything in their toolbox to protect the rights we enjoy now.
Republicans are openly targeting the ACA and Roe v. Wade. What else will they try to overturn? The fact that Lindsey Graham would jokingly reference segregation — while claiming to be sarcastic — only gave the game away to what the far-right’s greater ideological project is.
If Democrats spent more time wrangling power from the GOP, they’d be further along. If the Republicans are playing to win, the Democrats should too.