To save democracy, Democrats MUST step up on the courts

It is clear to anyone who wishes to see it that the Republican Party has absolutely no regard for our democracy. 66% of Republicans still think Biden lost, and any Republican politician who says otherwise is hounded out. The Republican Party has become increasingly cozy with radical militias like the Proud Boys, and lest we forget it was Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on January 6th in a desperate attempt to overturn democracy.

Unable to win over the American populace with a substantive legislative agenda, Republicans are instead opting to cheat. The flurry of anti-democratic voter suppression bills advanced by Republicans across the country, as well as blatantly partisan gerrymandering efforts, is meant to achieve the ultimate goal of simply abolishing the opposition altogether.

So then, what is the opposition’s response? Spoiler alert: a whole lot of nothing. For all the YouTube ads featuring Chuck Schumer and Stacey Abrams talking about “The Second Jim Crow”, Biden and the Democrats have done remarkably little to alleviate the situation. The For The People Act is dead in the Senate, and in fact it appears that Biden has already surrendered on this issue entirely, stating that “we’re going to out-organize them”. Yeah, I’m sure you are.

Of course, the filibuster and disloyal Democrats make any legislation, voting rights or otherwise, difficult to pass, what with the razor-thin 50-50 split in the Senate, but there is another way to safeguard democracy: the courts.

The federal judiciary took a sharp right-wing turn under the Trump administration. Trump appointed over one quarter of the entire judiciary, including 3 Supreme Court justices. We can see the results clearly, what with the virtual abolition of the Voting Rights Act, campaign finance limitations, and now abortion in these recent months. Democrats have a short, year-and-a-half period to swing the courts in the other direction.

It’s a layup. Republicans have no way of stopping judicial nominees going forward, and a more liberal court will be more amenable to any voting rights legislation passed, and more likely to strike down Republican voter-suppression laws. At the very least, they can delay cases headed for the Supreme Court.

Instead of seizing this easy victory, Democrats as usual are dawdling. As of my writing this, there are currently 87 judicial vacancies, with 33 more on the way; and yet, only 35 replacements have been named. Of those, barely a quarter have been confirmed, and no new judges have been nominated or confirmed for a month. At this rate, Democrats won’t fill all the vacancies by January 20th, 2023, when the new, almost certainly Republican Congress will convene, shutting the door on bringing our country back to some semblance of normalcy.

I don’t care what it takes. Have staffers look for names. Look everywhere for young, liberal judges. Have Schumer do a speed session through Congress, holding hearing after hearing and holding vote after vote until there are no vacancies. If you squander this gift and let Republicans nominate even one extra judge, then it will be truly appalling and pathetic.

Democrats, if you really care about democracy, put your money where your mouth is and nominate a judiciary that will protect our voting rights and let democracy flourish. Do what Republicans have been doing for a generation and fight dirty, or watch meekly as your party is slowly ground into the dust.

Image courtesy of Element5digital.

2 responses to “To save democracy, Democrats MUST step up on the courts”

  1. Absolutely agree with you on this! Trump followed this tactics through his presidency filling any possible seat with conservative judges, and we will feel this for generations. I am outraged.


  2. You make an important and profound point. The battle for our democracy is being fought in courts. Even one open court position should motivate us to act with a sense of diligence and urgency.
    Democrats should have something like a PICKS program as a guiding principle ( Pick Intelligent, Committed and Knowledgable Spars of democracy).
    Thanks for your essay.


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