What you need to know about the GOP takeover of the Supreme Court

We must see the GOP’s exercise of raw power for what it is and meet it with even greater force.

SOURCERobert Reich

Led by Mitch McConnell, Republicans are gearing up to reverse the precedent they themselves set in 2016, when they blocked President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee for 293 days because, they said, “this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.” 

They know if they let the people decide who should appoint the next Supreme Court justice, their last chance to implement minority rule could be lost.

What do I mean by minority rule?

Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million people

And he was impeached. 

If confirmed, his nominee would be approved by Senate Republicans representing 11 million fewer Americans than their Senate Democratic counterparts. 

Two of those Senate Republicans – Kelly Loeffler of Georgia and Martha McSally of Arizona – weren’t even elected; they were appointed by their respective governors, meaning they will get to confirm a Supreme Court justice to a lifetime appointment without ever winning their elections.

That justice would join a Supreme Court alongside four conservative justices who were nominated by Republican presidents who also lost the popular vote. 

These 5 would have the power to negate laws supported by a majority of Americans. They would have the power to interpret the U.S. Constitution. 

They’d even have the power to determine the outcome of the presidential election– a not-so-far-fetched possibility, given that Trump has refused to say whether he’ll accept the results if he loses, and has a multimillion-dollar war chest to mount legal challenges. He’s even said his motivation for ramming through a new justice is to serve as a tiebreaker in determining who wins the presidency.

In other words, a president elected by a minority will appoint a justice who will be confirmed by senators representing a minority. That justice will have the power to subvert the will of the majority and possibly hand the election to a president who’s already been impeached. 

Most Americans – including half of Republicans – believe Justice Ginsburg’s vacancy should be filled by whomever wins the presidency weeks from now. 

The GOP’s attempt to hold onto power at all costs jeopardizes the foundations of our democracy and threatens the sanctity of the Supreme Court, whose power and influence depend on Americans’ trust in its non-partisan judgment. 

Not to mention the destruction a 6-3 conservative majority could wreak. Right now, a group of Republican states, backed by Trump’s Justice Department, is seeking to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act. That decision would strip healthcare from upwards of 20 million Americans, remove women’s access to birth control, and eliminate protections for roughly 100 million people with preexisting conditions – including the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have recovered from COVID-19. 

And there’s no telling what that Supreme Court would do to reproductive freedom, LGBTQ+ rights, climate action, gun reform, union rights, immigrant rights, civil rights, and just about all civil liberties over the course of the next few decades.

The majority of Americans will not go down without a fight. 

First, we must defeat Trump and his Republican enablers in the upcoming election.

Next, when Democrats have control of the Senate, the House, and the presidency, the top priority must be to restructure the Supreme Court so it better reflects the will of the people. 

We must see the GOP’s exercise of raw power for what it is and meet it with even greater force.


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Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "Saving Capitalism." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, co-founder of the nonprofit Inequality Media and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, Inequality for All.