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.