Democrats Must Expand the Supreme Court to Save Democracy

The United States is facing an urgent, existential problem. Thankfully, the solution is obvious, incredibly easy to implement, and incidentally, would be very helpful to Democrats. The hard part, perhaps unsurprisingly, will be convincing enough Democrats in Washington to spring for it.

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress must expand the Supreme Court from its current nine seats to 13 seats. They must also expand the federal judiciary. These changes can be enacted with simple majority votes from both houses of Congress, and if Democrats don’t do it within the next two years, they may well never have the power to do so — or anything else of consequence — ever again.

That’s not hyperbole: After Mitch McConnell spent four years under Trump stuffing the courts with unqualified right-wing ideologues, Republican legislatures across the country are moving toward enacting historic voter suppression laws and redistricting schemes that will eviscerate the United States’ already flawed democracy and turn it into a functional one-party state. Only an expanded court system can stop them.

There is plenty of precedent for changing the size of the federal judiciary, including the size of the top court itself. Doing it this time wouldn’t be an act of partisanship, but a necessary measure to rebalance a hijacked judiciary and save the republic.

“Republicans have stolen two Supreme Court seats, and if Democrats don’t respond in any way to check this behavior, it’s only going to get worse,” says Christopher Kang, former Deputy Counsel to President Obama and the co-founder of Demand Justice. “There needs to be some consequences, or else Republicans, in their quest for power above all else, will continue to politicize our courts.”

Democracy Is On the Verge of Breaking 

With help from existing gerrymanders, Republicans in November held on to all of their legislative majorities, including in Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, states that went blue in the top-line contests. Instead of recognizing and adjusting to ongoing political and demographic shifts that cost them at the top of the ticket, Republicans are instead aiming to double down on the cheating that helped them maintain their legislative power.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, there were over 100 anti-voter bills introduced across 28 states during January. The toxic wave of proposals, introduced as “solutions” to absurd conspiracies about voter fraud and stolen elections pushed by Donald Trump and QAnon, are together a functional Jim Crow 2.0, effectively reviving mass disenfranchisement. For example:

  • In Arizona, Republicans have introduced 34 anti-voting laws, which would together gut the state’s popular and wildly successful no-excuse absentee voting program and purge millions of voters. Republicans also schemed to install a right-leaning chair to lead the state’s independent redistricting commission.
  • In Georgia, despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s best efforts to purge voters at an unprecedented pace, local activists helped drive record turnout. And so last week, bills introduced by Republicans included clauses to eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, ballot drop boxes, and automatic voter registration. Others in the state want to require voter ID on absentee ballots, which is undoubtedly a poll tax.
  • In Pennsylvania, the legislature is pushing to change the way the State Supreme Court is elected, using gerrymandering tactics to guarantee Republican control of a body that has foiled voter suppression plans time and again. Republican legislators are also focused on ending no-excuse absentee voting and imposing other limits.
  • In Texas, a true maniac Trumper is taking over the state House Election Committee, where he will be charged with investigating “integrity” issues.

These states are taking their cues from other GOP-controlled states, where things continue to get worse. Florida’s legislature already gutted the 2018 ballot initiative that was meant to return voting rights to 1.4 million formerly incarcerated people. Last year, Ohio’s Secretary of State throttled absentee ballot drop boxes. Voter ID laws cover much of the country. The list goes on and on — the point is, things are bad and about to go into overdrive.

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Prop 22, Attacks on the New Deal, and What Biden Can Do About It All

It’s been a tough few weeks for gig economy workers, who were already at the bottom of the economic totem pole:

Unlike many overt abuses of corporate power, these are not fait accompli. In fact, President Joe Biden can actually do something about them. He just has to empower his National Labor Relations Board to take action on Prop 22, one of the biggest under-the-radar threats to working people and democracy today.

What Is Prop 22?

Two events fundamentally rewired the American economy last year. The first, obviously, was COVID-19, which continues to rage and roil what was an already grossly unequal system. The second, the passage of Proposition 22 in California, went a bit under the radar but seriously compounded the shifts instigated by the pandemic.

When the pandemic blossomed in March 2020, businesses shut down and employers began massive waves of furloughs that became layoffs. Desperate for any sort of income, hundreds of thousands of people joined an already overcrowded, underpaying gig economy; within the first few months of the outbreak, grocery delivery apps like Instacart and Amazon Flex added over 550,000 workers, who were forced to put themselves at the mercy of algorithms and assume all risk and expenses in exchange for low wages and no security. In 2019, one study showed that drivers were making an average of $9/hour after all the expenses that they had to cover. Even more competition made it even worse.

A few years ago, lawmakers in California decided to do something about the garbage compensation that Uber, Lyft, Instacart, DoorDash, and other gig companies offered their workers. In 2019, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law known as AB 5, which created a standardized “ABC” test to determine whether someone is a full-time worker and therefore owed certain benefits and pay from their employer. But “laws are only as good as their enforcement,” says Veena Dubal, a law professor at the University of California, and the gig economy companies decided that they didn’t feel like obeying AB 5.

“Mom and pop companies know that they cannot weather a lawsuit, so they are going to be in compliance,” Dubal tells Progressives Everywhere. “But companies like Uber and Lyft, they don’t have a viable business model and they’re hemorrhaging millions a year, but because of all of their venture capital funding, they can afford to say ‘go ahead and sue us.’”

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The Right-Wing Attack on the Capitol Was Inevitable. It Has to Be a Wakeup Call.

The chaos that’s still happening in the Capitol is stomach-churning to watch, but it’s not at all surprising.

For all of American history, white men have been allowed to commit violence with impunity. There have never been any consequences. The violence of Jim Crow went unpunished. The savage resistance to advances in women’s rights and civil rights went unpunished. And just this year, the relentless onslaught of corruption, blatant lies, violence against Black protestors, and sabotaging of efforts to save people from COVID-19 all went unpunished. A small sampling of recent unpunished injustices:

  • Kyle Rittenhouse got bailed out and championed after murdering peaceful protestors in cold blood.
  • The cop who shot Jacob Blake in Wisconsin will go unpunished.
  • Donald Trump hasn’t been held responsible for anything, even trying to overturn the election in Georgia.
  • And now, terrorists stormed the Capitol building, enabled by police who did little to stop them.

We think we’ve moved past the era of lynchings and cross-burnings, but now that violence is just further institutionalized.

That’s not hyperbole — just watch this:

Things may even get worse tonight, because these rioters know there are no consequences.

Even scarier, the shattered remnants of our institutions have been neutered and corrupted to the point that they cannot begin to address what we’re facing.

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The Other Big Runoff Election in Georgia: Daniel Blackman Explains Why the Public Service Commission Matters

In the ultra-tight runoff election scheduled for January 5th, a progressive Democrat has the chance to break the GOP’s years-long lock on policy-making, a hegemony that has left the environment polluted, working people gouged by big corporations, many Black communities robbed of opportunity, and lawmakers increasingly unresponsive to the demands of their constituents.

Oh, and there will also be two US Senate elections on January 5th as well.

It’d be an understatement to say that the race for a spot on the Georgia Public Service Commission hasn’t received the same level of attention as the Ossoff-Perdue and Warnock-Loeffler showdowns, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important. In fact, it’s the sort of down-ballot position that has an outsized impact on people’s lives but has been largely ignored by Democrats over the last few decades. Thanks to the energetic campaign of activist, nonprofit leader, and Obama administration vet Daniel Blackman, that’s now changing. (It also doesn’t hurt that instead of appearing 13th or 14th on the ballot, it was just below the Senate races this year.)

Georgia’s Public Service Commission oversees all utilities, from power production to broadband internet. Its members play a huge role in setting environmental policy and helps determine the utility rates paid by millions of people in the state. Their decisions have wide-reaching implications, with racial justice, environmental pollution, and economic opportunity all directly impacted.

One quick example: Georgia is the only state in the country building new nuclear power plants. Republicans continue to green-light the projects, which accrue huge cost overruns which in turn get passed to Georgia consumers. They continue to invest in these projects, funneling money to the privately held Georgia Power monopoly, gouging people on their monthly energy bills instead of investing in the solar and wind power that would help the environment and save people money.

“Folks in Georgia have been footing the bill for a long time, not just on nuclear, but on our coal ash cleanup [another $525 million], and its really been a burden on folks,” Blackman says. “That people are struggling COVID-19 has amplified that a thousandfold.”

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These Progressive Groups Helped Democrats Win the White House

Last week, I co-wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post that focused on the Democratic Party’s ground game (or lack thereof) in 2020 and how activist organizations in several states picked up the slack and helped Joe Biden vanquish Donald Trump.

It’s impossible to understate just how important a role that the work of progressive groups in Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania played in the triumph. If Democrats want to turn around the down-ballot disappointments and overcome the gerrymanders that Republicans will enact in many states next year, we need to help these groups grow in ambition and scope.

To that end, I’ve put together an ActBlue page that features a dozen great groups, which I’ve listed right below. You can use the page to donate to one or more of them!

AAPI Victory Fund | Four Directions | Black Voters Matter PAC | Mijente | Citizen Action of Wisconsin | Pennsylvania Stands Up | Reclaim Philadelphia | Progress Michigan | Jolt Action | Texas Rising | Down Home North Carolina | Working Families Party

Donate to Progressive Activist Groups!

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