Food For Thought …

Today it is likely that Amy Barrett will be confirmed by a majority in the U.S. Senate.  Unconscionable?  Yes, for many reasons, but nonetheless inevitable.  In yesterday’s edition of The Guardian, Robert Reich wrote about what needs to happen next, assuming that Joe Biden is the next president and that the democrats can keep a majority in the House and gain a majority in the Senate – once considered unlikely, but far more realistic today.


Trump assaulted American democracy – here’s how Democrats can save it

Amy Coney Barrett is heading for confirmation but supreme court and Senate reform is possible if Biden wins and acts fast

Robert Reich-4Robert Reich

Barring a miracle, Amy Coney Barrett will be confirmed on Monday as the ninth justice on the US supreme court.

This is a travesty of democracy.

The vote on Barrett’s confirmation will occur just eight days before election day. By contrast, the Senate didn’t even hold a hearing on Merrick Garland, who Barack Obama nominated almost a year before the end of his term. Majority leader Mitch McConnell argued at the time that any vote should wait “until we have a new president”.

Barrett was nominated by a president who lost the popular vote by nearly 3m ballots, and who was impeached by the House of Representatives. When Barrett joins the court, five of the nine justices will have been appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote.

The Republican senators who will vote for her represent 15 million fewer Americans than their Democratic colleagues.

Once on the high court, Barrett will join five other reactionaries who together will be able to declare laws unconstitutional, for perhaps a generation.

Barrett’s confirmation is the culmination of years in which a shrinking and increasingly conservative, rural and white segment of the US population has been imposing its will on the rest of America. They’ve been bankrolled by big business, seeking lower taxes and fewer regulations.

In the event Joe Biden becomes president on 20 January and both houses of Congress come under control of the Democrats, they can reverse this trend. It may be the last chance – both for the Democrats and, more importantly, for American democracy.

How?

For starters, increase the size of the supreme court. The constitution says nothing about the number of justices. The court changed size seven times in its first 80 years, from as few as five justices under John Adams to 10 under Abraham Lincoln.

Biden says if elected he’ll create a bipartisan commission to study a possible court overhaul “because it’s getting out of whack”. That’s fine, but he’ll need to move quickly. The window of opportunity could close by the 2022 midterm elections.

Second, abolish the Senate filibuster. Under current rules, 60 votes are needed to enact legislation. This means that if Democrats win a bare majority there, Republicans could block any new legislation Biden hopes to pass.

The filibuster could be ended with a rule change requiring 51 votes. There is growing support among Democrats for doing this if they gain that many seats. During the campaign, Biden acknowledged that the filibuster has become a negative force in government.

The filibuster is not in the constitution either.

The most ambitious structural reform would be to rebalance the Senate itself. For decades, rural states have been emptying as the US population has shifted to vast megalopolises. The result is a growing disparity in representation, especially of nonwhite voters.

For example, both California, with a population of 40 million, and Wyoming, whose population is 579,000, get two senators. If population trends continue, by 2040 some 40% of Americans will live in just five states, and half of America will be represented by 18 Senators, the other half by 82.

This distortion also skews the electoral college, because each state’s number of electors equals its total of senators and representatives. Hence, the recent presidents who have lost the popular vote.

This growing imbalance can be remedied by creating more states representing a larger majority of Americans. At the least, statehood should be granted to Washington DC. And given that one out of eight Americans now lives in California – whose economy, if it were a separate country, would be the ninth-largest in the world – why not split it into a North and South California?

The constitution is also silent on the number of states.

Those who recoil from structural reforms such as the three I’ve outlined warn that Republicans will retaliate when they return to power. That’s rubbish. Republicans have already altered the ground rules. In 2016, they failed to win a majority of votes cast for the House, Senate or the presidency, yet secured control of all three.

Barrett’s ascent is the latest illustration of how grotesque the power imbalance has become, and how it continues to entrench itself ever more deeply. If not reversed soon, it will be impossible to remedy.

What’s at stake is not partisan politics. It is representative government. If Democrats get the opportunity, they must redress this growing imbalance – for the sake of democracy.

26 thoughts on “Food For Thought …

  1. Hate to be a downer, but I think trump will either win or cry foul and tie up the courts for awhile and with the Supreme Court now under his control, no help will come from there.

    The US is in a huge mess…corruption, hatreds, racism, religious extremism, homophobia, greed to name a few.

    We need to begin thinking of how to deal with the inevitable. The only hope will be I. Future generations and I’m not sure that is a real hope or not..seems a lot of young people, especially men are trumpers..

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t think he will win, and if the margin of victory for Biden is large enough … say 10% – 12% … then any protest would be laughable.

      Yes, we are in a mess, and it won’t be repaired overnight, nor likely even in a single administration, but will take decades to repair.

      I am a realist, a pragmatist, but I don’t see a path to victory for Trump at this point. Will he raise hell? Sure he will, and more concerning is that his base will believe him when he says he was “treated unfairly”, or that the mail-in ballots were corrupted. However, I do have hope … I think Biden will win, and I think it will be by a margin large enough that nobody, not even the Supreme Court, will be able to negate the outcome.

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  2. What worries me is the investigation of Hunter Biden’s laptop proving Joe Biden money laundering foreign gov’t payoffs in exchange for White House access and foreign policy manipulation/ interference. If proven true these charges look very incriminating to our future President. So far nothing from the hard drive have been publicly released and the FBI/ CIA are silent.
    In any case this should not affect the result of the election, polls still have Biden up double digits in nearly all states, victory is at hand!

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  3. So ‘The Great Illegal’ who stole the 2016 election and has created a world not even the Republicans recognise with departments headed by inept underlings told to reverse the direction taken by Obama have now stolen another seat on the Supreme Court. Another step in the Dictatorial direction for Trump. There has to be some decisive action by the populace next week. Biden must win convincingly which I hope is a given, but Democrats must win in the senate if any policies are not to be blocked. Then Biden must forge ahead to make solid changes to the law which will allow him to carry out his mandate to bring the country together. Are you listening Republican voters? See the damage Trump has done to you with Covid and how much more he will do taking away the ACA.and the pre-existing condition cover. Vote him out and those who have followed his every move as sycophants. Time to clean house and trying Unity for a while.
    Cwtch

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, that pretty much sums it up … grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I nearly fell into a rabbit hole, but a hand reached out and kept me above ground for the moment. If we don’t clean house with this election, then methinks the house will be burned to the ground. Might be just what’s needed. Sigh.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jill, we need to get Biden elected, so we can return to better and procedural governance. People need to turn out and vote for Biden. Of course, he is not perfect, but he will try to unite us. And, that is sorely needed. I plucked a paragraph out of our friend Peterironwood’s post that needs to be broadcast to as many as possible.

    “Donald Trump ran from danger, exhibited no leadership and will have needlessly killed a quarter million Americans. He’s isolated us from our allies. He’s divided the country against itself. He’s railed against the free press since day one. He’s replaced non-partisan experts throughout government with inept lackeys. He is preparing for a fascist state. He’s a willing accomplice in the destruction of American.”

    So, we need to tell our young folks and everyone – if you care about health care, if you care about fighting climate change, if you care about civil rights for all, if you care about our reputation – then vote out the person described by Peter.

    Keith

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re so right … the first step is to get Biden elected and replace chaos with sanity. Peter I is spot on, as always. You, I and others have been trying to get the word out, but as I’ve been told more than a few times, we’re preaching to the choir, or spitting in the wind. Sigh.

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    • A big blow to democracy tonight in the confirmation and swearing in of a homophobic, misogynistic woman to the Supreme Court. What next? Sigh. The democratic foundations are only as good as those who are entrusted with overseeing them, and right now, we have the most corrupt bunch of overseers we’ve had in my lifetime. I might be able to calm down after next week, but … no promises. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. An even playing field, why didn’t the founding fathers think of that? Because men don’t want an even playing field, and there were no Founding Mothers to create an even field.
    Times have changed, but the conservative Republican Party has no desire to change with the times. It was good enough for our forefathers, it’s good enough foe us. Famous last words.
    If the USA is going to survive as a world power, it must change with the times. Not just a little change, but a GREAT BIG CHANGE. Does Joe Biden have the will to do that?
    If he doesn’t, who will?

    Liked by 2 people

    • True … at the time the Constitution was written, women were not allowed to vote or own property, and Black people were not allowed to vote and were considered to be 2/3 of a person, so a lot has changed, which is why the Constitution cannot be taken literally, textually, word for word. I think that Biden will opt for a path of slower change than what you might think necessary, and as of this moment, I’m not sure which I would support. But what I do know is that we have two choices and only two choices: Trump or Biden. I will gladly take Biden.

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    • Well we do have a choice, and it’s between two old white wealthy patriarchal elite men. Biden will most certainly win in a landslide victory as the establishment candidate. Why would he ever change a system which keeps him in a position of power, wealth and control. He’s a lifelong career politician, name one thing he has ever done for the ppl in his 40+ years of public service, lol.

      Like

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