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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dionne: Dems Must Expand the High Court or Capitulate

From “The alternative to Supreme Court enlargement is surrender” by E. J. Dionne, Jr. at The Washington Post:

Liberals are at a special disadvantage when it comes to confronting a radically conservative Supreme Court because most of them are, by nature, institutionalists. They are wary of upsetting long-standing arrangements for fear of mimicking the destructive behavior of the other side and, in the process, legitimizing it.

“Now comes the deluge,” Dionne adds.” The radicalism of this 6-3 majority is obvious. It has been well-documented most recently by my Post colleague Ruth Marcus, Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick and Linda Greenhouse in the New York Times. As they have warned, the extremism, the indifference to precedent, the twisting of the law, the imposition of ideology by judicial fiat — it’s all likely to get much worse.” Further,

Liberals, progressives and moderates who value the rule of law can wring their hands and sit back while this court carries us all back to the 19th century. Or they can say: Enough.

The first step toward doing so is to insist on the truth: This court has already been packed by the right. And the only effective way to undo the right’s power play is to unpack it by adding four justices.

Proponents of court enlargement are still a minority, even among liberals — for now. But their ranks are growing, and one important recruit is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who endorsed the idea of adding justices last week….True, Warren is a leading progressive, so perhaps you’re not surprised. But she is also a former law professor who reveres the judiciary and did not come to this position lightly.

“I wanted to believe in the independence of the Supreme Court,” Warren told me in an interview. “It’s what I learned in junior high. It’s what I studied in law school, and it’s what I taught when I was a law professor. … But the Supreme Court has fundamentally changed in the past few years. It starts when Mitch McConnell hijacked two seats, but it accelerates when this extremist court knocks the foundations out of the premise of rule of law.

“In area after area,” she continued, “campaign finance, union organizing, equal protection, having a day in court, voting rights and now Roe, this court is willing to ignore decades and decades of settled law.”…She’s especially concerned that by putting social issues such as abortion in the forefront, judicial conservatives give themselves cover for court decisions that enhance corporate power, reduce the ability of employees to fight back and undercut government’s capacity to regulate economic activity in the public interest.

Corporations, she said, “can capture the courts and get a backup, a second chance — a second chance to deny unions of the opportunity to organize, a second chance to keep people who’ve been cheated on [a] contract out of court, a second chance to deny the rights of people who are injured.

Dionne concludes, “The conservative justices want us to forget how they got their majority and to bow respectfully before their radicalism. Democracy, justice and moderation itself demand that we not capitulate.”

Yes, the Dinos make expanding the size of the Supreme Court highly problematic. OK, make that all but impossible without a couple more real Democratic senators. But it’s up to Democrats to make sure Dionne’s argument is a top consideration of swing voters in the midterm elections.

One comment on “Dionne: Dems Must Expand the High Court or Capitulate

  1. Martin Lawford on

    Restoring balance to the Supreme Court is so important that it should be a major theme in Democratic messaging for 2022, messaging along the lines of Senator Warren’s column.


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