Democrats must pack the courts to restore democracy or something

Aaron Belkin: I’ll answer your question in the context of your reference to “Democrats … proposing … to just generally begin to burn all the norms and conventions around the courts to the ground.” It is not possible to begin to burn those norms and conventions because the Republicans have already burned much of the judicial house down.

During President Obama’s first term, the GOP arguably blocked more lower court appointments than were blocked in U.S. history. Then they stole a Supreme Court seat. Then multiple ostensibly moderate GOP leaders like the late Sen. McCain said that if Hillary Clinton were elected, they would fix the number of Supreme Court justices at eight throughout her term. Then they leveraged procedural abuses to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. And, of course, there’s a much broader field of norms of governance that the GOP has shredded and that are not directly related to the courts. So it’s important to contextualize proposals to expand the court within the normative destruction that has already taken place.

As you observe, court expansion was a third-rail topic as long as both parties behaved relatively fairly and honorably in the nomination and confirmation process. At this point, however, the sedimented weight of GOP judicial misconduct has prompted a range of progressive thought leaders, including Congressman Ro Khanna, to endorse court expansion in recent weeks.