Following the passing of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, an overwhelming sense of loss filled the minds of millions across the nation. Yet to Republican leadership, the absence of one the most outspoken advocates and architects for equality was a chance for a checkmate in politicizing the Supreme Court.
When videos circulated from 2016 of Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConell, fully reversing their position on filling a seat so close to a presidential election—it was no surprise. The nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett is political and a direct assault on the nonpartisan nature of the Supreme Court—as if it wasn’t clear enough when Republican senators Ted Cruz and Tom Cotton made the short list despite the political alliances and adversaries that would have impaired their jurisprudence.
The only way to reform the Supreme Court is by increasing the number of seats, also known as packing the court. The once in a blue moon chance to do this might be right around the corner, with a potential blue sweep that would give Democrats the necessary control to pass such legislation.
Although Democrats have won the presidency at roughly equal rates as Republicans, the last time a Democratic president nominated a Chief Justice was 1953, and the last time a majority of the Court’s justices were nominated by a Democrat was 1969. This falls into a pattern of infiltrating the highest court to establish lasting conservative control. With Senate Republicans outright refusal to schedule a hearing for the moderate and qualified Merrick Garland, and the repeated breaking of their own “precedent,” the mounting conservative attack on the Supreme Court has passed the point of a viable Democratic solution.
Although some might argue that this would undermine the integrity of the court or go against the Constitution, the founding document intentionally does not state the amount of justices on the bench, a number that has varied from six to ten.
Reforming the Supreme Court cannot wait for Justices to die and be replaced, it must come from court packing. The United States is up against arguably the most threatening decade to democracy and humanity that the world has ever seen. With the challenges posed by climate change, a COVID recession, and racial inequalities, we can’t risk the Supreme Court blocking progress.
When in 1937, FDR proposed court packing, it was because his policies were being stonewalled by a conservative Supreme Court. His reforms were held up, despite the dire circumstances of his time: record high unemployment, loss of savings accounts, and bankruptcy of small businesses. Today our country faces similar challenges and we can’t risk a Biden recovery plan getting blocked by the politics of a hyper-conservative Supreme Court.
“We all need to be more courageous and we all must act in unprecedented ways to make sure that our rights are stabilized,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in response to Senate Majority Leader McConnell moving ahead with the nomination process.
I agree. For those who value our system of checks and balances, Democrat or Republican, now is the time to stand for something substantially bigger and bolder.