Opinion by Merrill Matthews, The Hill, 7/5/23
Feel free to disregard all of the Democrats’ hypocritical warnings about the current threats to democracy. The nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court operate in about as pure a democracy as one will find, yet for years Democrats have been berating and attacking the court, undermining its very constitutional foundations and several of the justices personally.
If you like democracy, you should love this Supreme Court. All nine justices, appointed by elected presidents and confirmed by elected senators, are equal. This includes the chief justice, whose office only allows for certain limited leadership decisions.
All the justices have one vote regardless of their age, tenure, or expertise in a particular matter before the body.
As in any good democracy, the justices are free to do their best to sway the vote of their colleagues in an effort to create a majority. Sometimes they succeed. Also as in any good democracy, one or more of the justices may concur with one side but for different reasons — just as, for example, some voters in the 2020 presidential election voted for Joe Biden, while others voted against Donald Trump. The result was the same. Biden received the vote, regardless of the voters’ reason for voting for him.
Another important point critical to a well-functioning democracy is that, in the high court, freedom of speech thrives. Each justice has the freedom to express his or her views, either by writing the court’s majority or minority opinion, or a concurring opinion. And justices in their comments can be very critical of the opposing side.
Finally, disregard all of the progressive wailing and gnashing of teeth at the current ideological makeup of the court. It is actually a fairly good representation of the country as a whole.
Consider the SCOTUS ideological chart, which was prepared by Axios using an analysis by political scientists Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn. Of the court’s three liberals, the Martin/Quinn analysis considers Justice Sonia Sotomayor to be far-left, with Justices Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson a bit less so. Of the six other justices, the analysis puts Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito on the right, but not as far to the right as Sotomayor is far-left. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett are generally conservative. Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Chief Justice John Roberts are pegged as moderate to right-leaning.
Now look at the ideological makeup of the country, which Gallup has tracked for years. According to Gallup’s June survey, “When asked to describe their political views overall, without reference to social or economic issues, 40 percent say they have conservative views, 31 percent moderate and 26 percent liberal.”
Thus, a court with three lefties, four conservatives and two who are moderate-to-conservative is a pretty good match for the country as a whole. And yet the left, from President Joe Biden on down, can’t seem to get enough of court bashing. Biden even recently asserted that “this is not a normal court.”
Progressives hope the court’s most recent decisions will persuade the president to support the left’s court-packing scheme to put at least four more liberal justices on the bench, or to impose age limits, which the left wasn’t so eager to do when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was still on the court.
The left’s constant anti-court barrage is intended to undermine public support for the judicial branch so that it will be easier to pack the court or do something else that would drastically alter its current makeup. President Biden has been reluctant to go that far, but he appears to be weakening.
Many Republicans thought, and some still think, that Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election. All the evidence suggests that those suspicions are unfounded. But Democratic efforts to undermine, delegitimize and restructure the Supreme Court, just because they don’t like its recent decisions, only fuel more such suspicions.
After all, if Democrats are willing to undermine the Supreme Court just because they don’t like the justices’ decisions, is it really that unreasonable to think they might undermine elections if they don’t like the voters’ decisions?
Merrill Matthews is a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas.