Joe Biden didn’t mince words as Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump abuse and corrupt the Constitution in their rush to fill Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court.
“The infection this president has unleashed on our democracy can be fatal. Enough. Enough. Enough.”
He has since added that expanding the Court is a legitimate question. Biden sees McConnell’s desire for total unitary executive, judiciary, and legislative control for what it is: A tyranny of extremism.
With McConnell and Trump, it’s minoritarian rule with a dollop of authoritarianism. If he ever did, McConnell no longer believes in deliberative democracy, debate, and decision-making. He’s made the United States Senate the world’s worst deliberative body, all but neutering the independence of senators and overriding any pretense of checks and balances.
If speculation holds, McConnell will be doing that on behalf of one of two likely nominees whose values are both antithetical to America as we have known it. Amy Coney Barrett does not believe in the separation of Church and State. Barbara Lagoa does not believe in voting rights.
A charismatic Democrat should lead the war room against the Republican nominee. The leading candidate would be Tammy Duckworth, with Chris Murphy and Brian Schatz to back her up. Recognizing the limits of his persuasion and mobilizing power, Schumer smartly enlisted AOC to join him in their first public reaction to the GOP plot against our democracy.
What’s clear by their unflinching hypocrisy is that Republicans will not be shamed after their refusal to consider, let alone seat, Merrick Garland. Democrats will lose again if they focus on procedural debates. In addition to opposing vehemently Trump’s nominee, Biden should embrace Court expansion if McConnell installs a minoritarian cult to overrule the American people. Biden can forcefully acknowledge the illegitimacy of the current process and the need for a representative judiciary if that process proceeds.
So far, the Biden campaign has focused on the importance of a Court that will not decimate the Affordable Care Act, especially during the pandemic. That’s necessary, but not sufficient.
Biden must not be afraid to say and do what is necessary to preserve American democracy. What he could learn from the failed campaigns of Mitt Romney and John McCain is that a message of decency that isn’t purposeful fails to resonate with the American people. If Biden fails to campaign boldly to reverse an extremist’s confirmation and the Court’s illegitimacy, he will lose the enthusiasm driving his election and not be able to restore the soul of America.
The United States of America is supposed to be a country where the death of a single government official—a president, a senator, or Supreme Court justice—does not threaten to erode democracy. But the United States of America under Donald Trump is a banana republic—not a democratic republic. If that continues, five of the nine judges who decide the law of our land will have been appointed by presidents who did not win the popular support of the American people.
Our rights as citizens are not supposed to be this precarious. The creators of our Constitution, which never stipulated the number of justices to be seated on the Supreme Court, did not expect that chance would determine the fate of our Republic. Who lives and dies in a given presidency should not determine who writes or preserves the law.
Finally, it’s the pandemic, stupid. As eager as Trump is to flee the scene of his criminal neglect, the death of a justice cannot overshadow the deaths of more than 200,000 of our brothers and sisters.
The argument for Biden to choose the next Justice is connected. We need his judgment. He will protect America from disease and protect the Constitution from Republican-enabled lawlessness.
It’s not about decency for decency’s sake now, but for democracy’s sake.