COLUMN: Democrats should pack the court

On Saturday, Brett Kavanaugh became the newest member of the Supreme Court after a vote of 50-48.

Kavanaugh was accused of multiple credible allegations of sexual assault, yet Senate Republicans ultimately had no problem in allowing him to assume a lifetime appointment on the highest court in the country, as it shifts to a 5-4 conservative majority. 

Even though Kavanaugh wrote in the Wall Street Journal that he would be an independent and apolitical arbiter, his testimony for the Senate Judiciary Committee blamed the opposition to his nomination specifically on the Clintons and left-wing opposition groups. The testimony also showed that he has absolutely no problem with lying to get what he wants. 

And now Republicans will as well. The continuous threat of rollbacks to protections for people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and the environment is even more likely.

Possibly the only silver lining to this entire process has been the inevitable realization among many Democrats that the Supreme Court is not an independent institution, which Republicans have known for a long time. If the Supreme Court isn’t partisan, Trump and the GOP never would have fought as hard as they did to confirm Kavanaugh.

It is time for Democrats to play to win, and they can do so by packing the court. The Constitution does not require exactly nine members to be on the Supreme Court, and many on the left have called for adding two, or even six, additional justices that would be supportive of left-wing programs.

This can only be done by winning the presidency and the upcoming midterm elections and passing legislation in both houses of Congress, which is no easy task, but its effects would be extremely beneficial and last for decades to come. Universal health care, expanded voting rights and increased wages could all be deemed unconstitutional by a conservative Supreme Court if they were to pass through Congress, but a Democratic president packing the court with additional justices could prevent it. 

Past presidents have advocated or implemented court packing, including Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with the goal of carrying out popular, progressive agendas that would otherwise be threatened. Other movements, like those fighting for Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico to become states, enacting term limits and abolishing the electoral college should absolutely be supported. 

Though many of them are harder to achieve, the goal is to try and fix what is clearly broken in this country, including the fact that the current justices do not accurately represent popular opinion. Four of the now nine Supreme Court justices have been appointed by presidents and a party who lost the popular vote. Two of the nine have also been credibly accused of sexual assault. 

The idea of court packing may not be popular with those who see the court as a sacred institution and don’t want it to somehow lose its legitimacy, but Republicans have repeatedly shown that this is not possible. After former President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, they refused to appoint him and threatened to continue to do so even if Hillary Clinton won the election. In effect, they restructured the court to only eight justices for almost a year. 

The “nuclear option” was also implemented early into Trump’s presidency in order to abandon the 60-vote threshold to confirm Supreme Court nominations and instead replace it with a simple majority. The question becomes what Democratic leaders should value more — the lives and well-being of the people or political norms?

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