On Feb. 8, just before America’s first-in-the-nation primary, Demand Justice, the left-wing group dedicated to transforming our courts, hosted a New Hampshire forum for Democratic presidential candidates, along with the abortion-focused groups NARAL, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and the All* Above All Action Fund. These groups were able to attract all the viable Democratic presidential contenders with the exception of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Let’s give the event hosts credit for a forum that gave us a chance to hear from the candidates on the subject of the courts, a topic that has rarely come up during the debates. They did voters a service, however unintentionally, by revealing just how dangerous it would be to our judicial system to elect a Democratic president in 2020.
The leading contenders made it clear they would advocate changing the very structure of the Supreme Court in order to advance their liberal ideology — or, to use the more familiar term, packing the court. Consider as a historical reference point Franklin D. Roosevelt’s notorious proposal of 1937, which would have authorized the expansion of the Supreme Court to as many as 15 justices. Although Democrats dominated Congress at the time, enough of them had the statesmanship to recognize a blow to our judicial system when they saw it, and accordingly blocked it.
As celebrated as Roosevelt has been among presidents, that episode is widely agreed to be among the lowest points of his administration, which helps explain why all of his successors had enough common sense and respect for our institutions not to advance a similar scheme.
Fast forward to 2020. Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is touting the idea of expanding the court to as many as 15 justices. It’s almost as if we needed an explicit reminder that the next Democratic president would repeat the worst mistakes of the past. Other contenders followed suit with court-packing ideas.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., would rotate Supreme Court justices and limit their terms. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., was not asked about court-packing at the forum, but was one of the first of the pack to entertain it as “a conversation that’s worth having.”
Of course, court-packing is an extreme means of advancing an extreme agenda — using the courts as a vehicle to advance policy preferences instead of going through the people’s elected representatives. Buttigieg stated succinctly, “My appointments will make the court more progressive.” Whenever the question came up at the forum, the candidates admitted they would impose a litmus test on abortion, the environment, and labor when making judicial nominations, even on the circuit level.
Yet even at an event focused on the courts, none of the Democrats had the guts to name names of the people they are considering for Supreme Court. Not even Sanders or Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., who have each spent 13 years in the Senate and claim they have lists of potential judges ready to go.
Demand Justice released its own list of preferred Supreme Court prospects last fall — a group of ideologues left of even the typical Obama appointee. The vast majority lacked appropriate judicial experience. The type of radical activists today’s Democratic Party is clamoring for would deal a devastating blow to the rule of law.
President Trump made history in 2016 with his transparency in releasing his list of the principled men and women he would choose from to fill Supreme Court vacancies. The American people loved it. I dare Democrats to do the same, but it seems they are going to keep hiding.