Is there a Democrat anywhere who’s more likely to influence progressive opinion on this subject than Ginsburg? Maybe Obama, but he’d be attacked as weak for opposing Court-packing considering that the proposal is aimed at righting the alleged wrong done by Mitch McConnell in roadblocking Merrick Garland’s nomination. O would be siding with the GOP on a policy matter triggered by his own supposed victimization by them. And besides, thanks to Biden, the left is more skeptical of Obama today than it’s been at any point since early in the 2008 primaries. O’s dim view of Court-packing now wouldn’t have the sort of talismanic effect it might have had five years ago when he was still in office.
Due to her authority as a member of the Court and her iconic status as the dean of the liberal wing and a feminist trailblazer, literally no one’s opinion is apt to carry as much weight in lefty thinking as Ginsburg’s.
Which is not to say it’s apt to carry *much* weight. They seem pretty hyped to add a few justices when next they control the presidency and the Senate, if only for the visceral pleasure of avenging Garland.
But let’s be real. Once they’re in a position to confirm their own Supreme Court nominees again, how much of the appetite for Court-packing will remain? They’re starving right now because it’s been nearly 10 years since a Democrat joined the Court and around 50 years since they’ve had a reliable Democratic majority. Once Schumer and a Dem president are in charge and they can start filling vacancies again without needing to worry about a Republican filibuster, they’ll be (mostly) sated. Even if they wanted to accelerate a new Democratic SCOTUS majority by packing the Court, they’d need to shatter two separate taboos to do it — increasing the number of justices from nine, of course, but also ending the legislative filibuster so that a simple Dem majority in the Senate could join with the House in amending the statute that sets the number of justices. Either one of those moves in isolation would be thermonuclear politically. In tandem they’d be like an asteroid hitting the Earth.
And imagine what the polling would be like. Republicans would oppose it unanimously, independents would likely oppose it on balance, and Dems would support it but with a substantial minority expressing misgivings. Result: A solid majority of the public against the idea. A Rasmussen poll from earlier this year confirmed that guesswork, in fact:
As Fix The Court notes, a recent Rasmussen poll finds that only 27 percent of respondents favor adding justices to the Supreme Court — and presumably the lower courts — while 55 percent opposed. Meanwhile, in the same poll, 54 percent of respondents support a term limits proposal. Even Justice Breyer is on board with an 18-year term limit.
The public is more narrowly divided on impeaching Trump than they are on Court-packing and yet Pelosi so fears the backlash impeachment might generate for centrist Dems in purple districts that she won’t go near it. Imagine lefties trying to convince her to blow up the Supreme Court, knowing that the election of a Democratic president would be likely to turbo-charge Republican turnout for the following midterm elections anyway. If they want to pack the Court, their first step would necessarily have to be replacing Pelosi as Speaker with a progressive firebrand. And then, when they’re done with that, they’d need to convince the new Dem president that it’s worth triggering a mammoth Republican electoral backlash to add two new justices to the Court, knowing that GOPers would surely use the precedent to add two more of their own just as soon as they’re back in power. How is it worth it?