Closing out the Supreme Court season, two big decisions that split 6-3 along ideological lines have reignited calls from the left to pack the bench with more justices. With one case on voting rights and the other on free speech, Democrats see these rulings as firmly against their own beliefs.
One decision said that the state of Arizona did not violate the Voting Rights Act by requiring that ballots be cast in the correct precinct. The Court also stated that a ban on ballot harvesting was acceptable.
The second ruling involved who gets the data on donors to charitable organizations. The Court ruled against the state of California in favor of non-profit organizations that resisted divulging donor information to the state attorney general’s office.
As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The president and the Congress are all very well in their way. They can say what they think they think, but it rests with the Supreme Court to decide what they have really thought.” It appears that the present Democratic Party leadership does not approve of the Court’s interpretation.
“I am deeply disappointed in today’s decision by the United States Supreme Court that undercuts the Voting Rights Act,” President Joe Biden lamented over the DNC’s loss to the Arizona AG. “In a span of just eight years, the Court has now done severe damage to two of the most important provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – a law that took years of struggle and strife to secure.”
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey also had harsh words about the ruling, stating:
“Today’s ruling is another blow to voting rights. We have no time to waste to protect the right to vote. We must abolish the filibuster and pass the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act … And we must expand the Supreme Court.”
And this appears to be the crux of the matter. The Court’s decision was not in line with Democrat plans for the nature and method of voting, and so, therefore, the only option is to pack the Court with more Democrat-aligned justices. Sen. Markey was not alone in his calls for increasing the nine-justice bench.
“And still some people have the nerve to question whether Court expansion is necessary,” said NY Rep. Mondaire Jones. “Expand the damn court,” he exclaimed.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed her frustration over both Court decisions. Regarding the Arizona case, she said it was part of an “unprecedented assault on voting rights.” However, she saved the bulk of her wrath for Americans for Prosperity v. Bonta, in which SCOTUS ruled that a mandate from the California AG’s office requiring non-profits to hand over the names of those who supported them was unconstitutional and directly opposed to the First Amendment.
“The decision in Americans for Prosperity further harms our democracy by allowing the suffocation of the airwaves caused by big dark special interest money,” the House speaker said. “This torrent of dark money silences the voices of voters and prevents passage of commonsense, bipartisan, and popular legislation – from gun violence prevention to climate action to LGBTQ equality. It is fundamentally anti-democratic, and it cannot go unanswered.”
With Donald Trump having appointed three justices, Democrats appear to feel every decision that goes against their policy platform is a direct rebuke from the former president. In the same way that President Biden’s first few months in office were uniquely focused on undoing much of the work done by his predecessor, it seems that ideological appetites will not be sated until this conservative advantage is nullified.
Wiser heads have warned that such a path leads nowhere.
Should Democrats successfully appoint more justices to the Court, they would likely have their partisan wins. But when the pendulum of power inevitably swings the other way, Republicans – equally keen to have their ideological imperatives be victorious – would see little issue with returning the favor.
Either the Supreme Court as a co-equal branch of government works, or it doesn’t. Some would argue that it is not the role of Congress or presidents to shape an equal partner in their own image.
In her memoir, My Beloved World, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote, “I was fifteen years old when I understood how it is that things break down: people can’t imagine someone else’s point of view.” And perhaps she was more right than she knew. It is a lack of imagination and empathy that prompts one to destroy a system because it occasionally swings one way and then another. The Supreme Court has delivered for those on the ideological left numerous times; that it also delivers for the ideological right does not mean that it is broken, rather that it is working just as it should.
Read more from Mark Angelides.