Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. comments on Thursday’s “twin rulings” from the U.S. Supreme Court, which allow states to “make it harder for people to vote” “made it easier for big donors to sway elections in secrecy.” Dionne argues that “These decisions send three important messages”:
The first is to Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and other senators still reluctant to overturn or reform the Senate’s filibuster rules. Their choice really is between defending the filibuster and defending democracy. If Manchin and Sinema allow Republicans in the Senate to kill all efforts to enforce voting rights and to check the power of big money in politics, they will be throwing in the towel on democracy itself.
Manchin, to his credit, has put together a series of provisions aimed at defending voter rights in states where Republican legislatures are engaged in both overt and subtle efforts at voter suppression. If he can’t get 10 Republicans to join him (and all the evidence says he won’t), he has to decide that his (small-d) democratic commitments take precedence over his reluctance to alter the Senate’s rules.
Second, Congress should think again before it strips the For the People Act of its provisions creating strong incentives for federal candidates to rely on small contributions. Small-donor incentives are, at the moment, the most effective way to push back against the Supreme Court’s solicitude toward the role of the wealthy in our political system.
The third is to all who have so far resisted the urgency of battling conservative Republicans’ systematic effort to pack the court with justices who will do their bidding.
From the GOP blockade against President Barack Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland to the 2020 confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett a little more than a week before Election Day, Republicans have been ruthless in using raw power to tilt court outcomes. Two votes on the court could (and likely would) have shifted the outcomes of Thursday’s decisions the other way.
Despite some not-so-bad high court rulings on the Affordable Care Act and a few social issues, it should be clear that the 6-3 Republican majority is taking a hard-right direction against voting and worker rights, as well as curbing corporate power. As Dionne concludes, “Court enlargement must now be on the agenda of anyone who cares about protecting voting rights and our increasingly fragile system of self-rule.” Task #1 in meeting this challenge is the fight for Democratic midterm gains in the Senate and House in 2022.