"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that."
-- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
When our corrupted U.S. Supreme Court, in June, handed down their closing opinions for last year's term, it became clear that we are facing a dark judicial hour in this nation.
Dark for women whose reproductive liberty and very lives have been placed at risk; dark for those who are drowning in seemingly insurmountable student debt; dark for those in the LGBTQ+ community who are seeing their very existence and right to medical care being challenged; dark for young African-American students hoping to acquire a higher education so as to overcome our nation's legacy of systemic racism; dark for the families of the ever-growing number of victims of mass shootings.
Our judicial institutions, for the moment, are still holding when it comes to accountability for the scoundrel who served as our 45th President. But, for too many others, the High Court has wrought a darkness brought on by the corrosive influence of the billionaire class and the "dark money" that billionaires and corporations use to corrupt our political and legal institutions.
That darkness comes courtesy of the Supreme Court's infamous 2010 Citizens United decision. It is a darkness also facilitated by political chicanery resulting in a Republican Party, which lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight Presidential Elections, packing a "corrupt" supermajority of six right-wing ideologues onto the nine-member High Court.
Their dark, radical interpretations of the Rule of Law have done more than simply endanger democracy's survival. By inventing a Second Amendment right of an individual to bear arms unrelated to military service in a State's "well-regulated" militia, the Roberts Court has become "destructive" of the first of the "unalienable Rights" listed in our nation's Declaration of Independence --- the right to "Life"!
Early last month, for example, CBS published a jaw-dropping U.S. statistic, citing "26 mass shootings in the first five days of July."
Yet, it is the dark and oppressive nature of the immensely unpopular decisions handed down by six unelected "radicals in robes", that, ironically, may help to facilitate a new dawn. The bright side of their decisions can be found in an incensed electorate, whose approval of the Court, as presently constituted, has plunged to a dismal 29%.
Democracy, as the late British MP Tony Benn described it, is "more revolutionary than socialist ideas." It is the light that can drive out the darkness.
The very existence of public revulsion towards the dark turn by the Court in recent years, such as overturning abortion rights and much more, make a 2024 Blue Tsunami possible. If the source of the darkness lies in the decisions of a corrupt and radicalized Supreme Court, then Democrats must convey a clear and coherent message that a vote for their candidates will serve to restore the light...including with reform of the Court itself...
Public backlash, in response to the Court's assault on what had been 50 years of hard-won, Constitutionally-protected reproductive freedoms, was promptly expressed at the ballot box. Voters in Kansas, by a whopping 18 percentage points, defeated a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have allowed Sunflower State officials to ban abortion rights. That was followed by the election of a pro-choice state Supreme Court Justice in Wisconsin "by 11 percentage points, a huge margin in a narrowly divided state," as The New York Times described it.
That single issue --- abortion rights --- was cited as the principal reason why the "red wave" many had predicted did not, in fact, materialize for Republicans during the 2022 midterms.
There's every reason to believe that the horror stories that have emerged since Dobbs was handed down, like the 10-year old rape victim who had to travel from Ohio to Indiana to secure a lawful abortion, will increase the number of citizens prepared to convert their revulsion and anger into votes for pro-choice candidates in 2024.
That scenario was recently reinforced when pro-choice advocates submitted more than 700,000 signatures collected from all 88 Ohio counties, seeking to place a measure on the ballot this November that would add reproductive freedoms to the Buckeye State Constitution. Hoping to counter recent polling in the state finding 58% favor the amendment and only 32% oppose it, Ohio's gerrymandered, Republican-controlled legislature, in a desperate, anti-democracy move, scheduled an Aug. 8 special election, where they are seeking to increase the threshold for voters to secure a constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60%.
That effort may backfire. Early voting numbers continue to "shatter expectations" for the state GOP's cynical attempt to undermine citizen-led initiatives. Early turnout suggests that Buckeye State voters are also pushing back against the darkness.
Congress, of course, has the power to restore access to abortion rights nationwide. During the 2024 campaign, pro-choice Congressional candidates will fare best if they vow to support codifying Roe into federal law. That must be a central component of the 2024 Democratic Party Platform.
Reform the Court
Recent stories of corruption amongst the Roberts' Court ideologues and unethical failures to recuse in the face of blatant conflicts-of-interest are too numerous to recount in this one article. (Oh, look! Another brand new one about the corrupt Clarence Thomas just this weekend!)
But those sordid tales, along with the decision by every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee to oppose the most modest of three Court reform bills --- a measure introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) to mandate that Supreme Court Justices abide by the same ethical cannons that apply to every other member of the federal judiciary --- will permit Democrats to shine a bright light on the dire need to alter a broken institution that is the source of so much of today's darkness.
Congressional Democrats also reintroduced a bill to expand the Supreme Court to 13 Justices.
The need for both term limits and Court expansion was summed up by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) during contentious 1991 Confirmation Hearings in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee. Kennedy, at the time, likened the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the High Court as a "game of Russian roulette". He then added a prescient warning...
During a recent appearance on MSNBC, President Biden told Nicole Wallace that he opposed expansion of SCOTUS because it could permanently "politicize" the Court.
With all due respect to our sitting President, Biden has it upside down and backwards. The only reason the Court is a politicized institution today is because successive Republican Presidents (Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, Trump) and the Federalist Society have spent the last 40+ years packing it with corrupt right-wing ideologues who lack a commitment to core Constitutional values.
When Biden nominated Ketanji Brown Jackson to the High Court in February of 2022, he did not remotely suggest he was doing so because he regarded her as a left-wing ideologue. To the contrary, the President said that, in his process of selecting a nominee, she was precisely what he'd been looking for...
The difference between Justices Jackson and Thomas cannot be found in a simplistic differentiation between liberals and conservatives. The difference is that the impartial and ethical Justice Jackson possesses that which the utterly corrupt Clarence Thomas lacks: "a commitment to core Constitutional values."
Should Biden be re-elected, expanding the Court to 13 Justices would permit him to nominate four impartial jurists who all must demonstrate "a commitment to core constitutional values."
Expansion to 13 Justices would help end, rather than serve to perpetuate, the politicization of the Supreme Court that the hard-right engineered. And, most importantly, by presenting a unified posture on Court expansion, Democrats would be in a position to convey a clear, coherent message that a 2024 Blue Tsunami could restore the light within the four years of a second term of the Biden Presidency.
Like abortion, all three elements of Supreme Court reform must become a part of the 2024 Democratic Party Platform.
That might offer a new dawn worth voting for.