When I heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, I reacted better than most of my liberal friends. I was sad, of course. She was not only a brilliant liberal jurist. She was also the end of a generation. She was the last liberal to be put on the Supreme Court.
But I didn’t freak out at the news. Part of it was just that I’ve been checking the news each morning looking for this since the start of the year. There was nothing surprising. It would have been a miracle if she had made it to next year.
But more than that, I had a very pleasant thought. “Now the Democrats have no choice but to do what I’ve been begging them for years.” Those things are:
- End the filibuster
- Expand the Supreme Court
- Add Washington DC and Puerto Rico as states.
Let’s go over these.
I’ve been on this forever. A lot of liberals don’t like the idea of getting rid of the filibuster. They say, “But what happens when the Republicans are in control?!” There are two issues here.
First, it is ridiculous to think that the Republicans have maintained the filibuster out of a sense of fairness or commitment to norms. They have cut back on the filibuster exactly as much as has been necessary.
They don’t need to worry about the filibuster for tax cuts. Sure, they are limited to ten years. But they know they won’t be in power that long anyway. And that brings us to the second issue.
The filibuster hurts the Democrats more because they want to govern. It isn’t like the Republicans want to pass any other legislation. (This may change after the Court strikes down Roe v Wade. Then they will be quick to pass a law outlawing abortion nationwide because it turns out that state and local control really doesn’t matter to them.)
If this isn’t enough for you, consider this: if we don’t get rid of the filibuster, the Democrats will not be able to do anything. The Republicans will have established minority rule for a decade or more.
Expand the Court
The Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat in 2016. As a result, for the last 4 years, we have had a conservative court when it should have been liberal. (Actually, there are no liberals on the court. There are only centrists now. But I’ll refer to it as liberal because it’s easier.)
The death of Ginsburg should now realign the court to be conservative. As a result, we should increase the size of the court to 11 members. Or 13. The truth is, the Republicans should be punished for their behavior.
But I understand: if the Democrats do this, the Republicans will just expand the court when they get in. I know! It will help change attitudes about the court. It will allow people to see that the Supreme Court is just another partisan branch of the government.
Liberals need to understand that historically, the Supreme Court has been aggressively conservative. Ian Millhiser discusses this at length in his excellent book, Injustices. The Court’s main use over the years has been to stop social progress. And we are going to see that in a big way if the current situation stands.
It’s not just that Roe v Wade is dead. Obamacare could be dead within a few months. And the woman we are looking at on the Court is a real loon. And young so she’ll have lots of time to “build the Kingdom of God.”
Add New States
Republicans are saying that the addition of states for DC and Puerto Rico is unfair. Well, the mainstream media can pretend that this is anything but disingenuous, but we don’t have to.
The truth is that if these two areas had leaned Republican, they would have been made states decades ago. I’ve been for making them states for years without even considering it from a partisan perspective.
But the truth of the matter is that the Senate is a highly undemocratic institution. It leans heavily Republican despite the fact that the nation votes heavily Democratic. And if we add these two states, the Senate will become less ridiculously unfair. But it will still provide a major advantage to Republicans.
Reality Sets In
I was actually feeling good that maybe this horrible event would lead to something good. But then reality set in. Dianne Feinstein set in. She said:
I don’t believe in doing that. I think the filibuster serves a purpose. It is not often used, it’s often less used now than when I first came, and I think it’s part of the Senate that differentiates itself.
This is the problem. For all the complaining about Joe Biden and other supposed centrists, the real problem with the party are these supposed institutionalists who have somehow missed the last three decades of Republican behavior.
I’ve been told that if it comes to it, Feinstein will fall in line. And she may well. But there are others. There are too many people who would rather install permanent Republican minority rule than give up the moral high ground.
They remind me of the cosplay socialists who can’t soil their moral purity by voting for a Clinton or a Biden. Except these Democrats are potentially far more harmful. I’m just hoping that they will bend to pressure. We will need to press hard.
Portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in the public domain.