During the presidential campaign of 1884, a pro-Republican clergyman called the Democrats the party of “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion.” Backlash from Democrats helped push Grover Cleveland into the White House. Today the phrase might be “Protests, Impeachment and Court-Packing.” And none of those issues are likely winners for Democrats.
In the wake of their party’s failure to keep Justice Brett Kavanaugh off the Supreme Court, some Democrats and their progressive allies are pushing ideas that would have been dismissed as fringe extremism just two years ago. Today, they’re being promoted in the Washington Post, The Nation and other respected left-of-center publications–and even by members of Congress.
“The next time the left has some political power, why not just expand the size of the supreme court and add another handful of justices?” asks Ian Samuel in The Guardian. “Make Brett Kavanaugh a gifted and energetic member of a 10-to-5 minority. Don’t get mad, in other words: get even.”
“This is called ‘court-packing,’ Samuel helpfully explains to his readers, and he goes on lay out why he believes it’s a completely reasonable and mainstream idea. And he’s not alone. The Washington Post headline reads: “Democrats must consider court-packing when they regain power. It’s the only way to save democracy.”
The person who wrote that, Professor David Faris of Roosevelt University, is also author of the book “It’s Time to Fight Dirty: How Democrats Can Build a Lasting Majority in American Politics.” He argues that “Republicans seem bent on pressing their ideological advantage with absolutely no consideration given to the possibility of appointing a consensus candidate to the court.”
“For that,” Faris warns, “they must pay a steep price.”
But packing the court may not be necessary of progressives succeed in their other strategy: Impeachment.
More than 150,000 people have signed the leftwing group CREDO Action’s online petition calling for Democrats to impeach Justice Kavanaugh. “An accused sexual predator who committed perjury by repeatedly lying under oath to the Senate Judiciary Committee has no business being a judge — period,” CREDO co-founder Heidi Hess said. “We will particularly focus on making sure House Democrats know that progressives expect them to use their full power to get Kavanaugh off the bench if they gain control of the House.”
“Cory Booker says Kavanaugh impeachment shouldn’t be off the table,” reports Yahoo News. “If there is conclusory evidence that shows unequivocally that he lied to a Senate committee, that is a crime and he should be held accountable for those criminal acts,” the New Jersey senator (and likely 2020 POTUS candidate) said Sunday while campaigning in Iowa.
Impeaching a Supreme Court justice would require a simple majority of Democrats in the House but a two-thirds majority in the Senate. The former is viewed as a likely outcome of the upcoming midterm elections, while the latter is virtually impossible. But that hasn’t stopped prominent Democrats from making their case.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, who would be the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee if Democrats take power, says he’s prepared to open an investigation into Justice Kavanaugh and his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. “It is not something we are eager to do,” Mr. Nadler said in an interview. “The Senate, having failed to do its proper constitutionally mandated job of advise and consent, we [the House] are going to have to do something to provide a check and balance, to protect the rule of law and to protect the legitimacy of one of our most important institutions,” Nadler told the New York Times.
And 40 members of Congress sent President Trump a letter warning that if a House investigation determined Kavanaugh had lied under oath, “the constitutionally prescribed remedy would be impeachment proceedings.”
Some Democrats have gone even further, calling for the impeachment of Justice Clarence Thomas, arguing that he should never have been confirmed to the Supreme Court after the (largely-discredited) claims of Anita Hill in 1991.
Is this smart politics? “The Democrats will not win back the Senate if they run on impeaching Brett Kavanaugh,” says Fordham University law professor Jed Shugerman.
Perhaps the most surprising reaction to Kavanaugh’s confirmation, however, is the assault on the institution of the U.S. Senate itself.
“Senators representing less than half the U.S. are about to confirm a nominee opposed by most Americans,” complained Philip Bump in the Washington Post.
Dylan Matthews at Vox.com calls the Senate “a grotesquely unrepresentative body that amplifies the power of small states at the expense of voters in big states.”
At NBC News, Ken Dilanian concurs: “It may not happen in our lifetimes, but the idea that North Dakota and New York get the same representation in the Senate has to change.”
Average Americans who grew up on School House Rock and civics classes on the three branches of government may be taken aback when they learn progressives are challenging one of the fundamental building blocks of the America’s constitutional system, along with the basic make up of the Supreme Court and the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.”
Two years ago, voters’ decision to make Donald Trump president seem radical. Today, it looks like small potatoes.