In case you missed it with all the momentous recent news, President Joe Biden signaled another big shift in his rhetoric, and hopefully his thinking, on the U.S. Supreme Court. In a virtual fundraiser for Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Biden told attendees in not so many words that the current Court has lost legitimacy.
“So, I view this … off-year election as one of the most important elections that I’ve been engaged in, because a lot can change because the institutions have changed,” Biden said. “The Supreme Court is more of an advocacy group these days than it is … evenhanded.” He expanded on that, saying that this election is the first where Americans are concerned “about whether we can keep our democracy.”
“Who’s gonna count the votes? Will it be the state legislature that can make a determination in who won the election? I can go on and on. There’s so much at stake,” he said. He’s clearly thinking about the fact that this court is taking on an absurd and extreme case this session that could hand over federal election and redistricting decisions entirely to state legislatures.
As a creature of the Senate, as an institutionalist, that’s real movement from Biden, amplified by the pitch he gave that night. “We’re less than 30 days away from the midterms, and the stakes are clear,” he said. “The right to choose is on the ballot. Your Social Security you paid for your whole life is on the ballot. The safety of our kids and gun violence is on the ballot. Literally, the survival of the planet is … on the ballot. And your right to vote. And democracy itself is … on the ballot.”
Maybe that puts Biden in the growing crowd of Democrats who are opening themselves up to the possibility of court expansion.
“I’ve never felt more hopeful about my work,” Sarah Lipton-Lubet told Mother Jones this week, about her job as executive director of Take Back the Court, which has been working on court expansion since 2018. “The court is only becoming more radical, only becoming more unhinged,” says Lipton-Lubet.
“The real question is just how long is this going to take until we act? And how many people are going to be hurt in the interim that wouldn’t have had to be if we had acted faster?”
That urgency seems to have sunk in with Biden. It’s possible, just possible, that with a real Democratic Senate majority it could happen.
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Good judges are more important now than ever. In some states, judges are on the ballot this November. Tune in to The Downballot to listen to Justice Richard Bernstein talk about what being on the Michigan Supreme Court has been like, and how his re-election campaign is shaping up.