By Lathan Watts, Director of Public Affairs
When President Joe Biden announced the formation of a commission to study the possibility of adding seats to the U.S. Supreme Court, he raised more than a few eyebrows from policymakers and commentators spanning the breadth of the political spectrum. Like a bad zombie movie, an idea that should have died once and for all back in 1937, has been revived to stalk our most cherished liberties and the foundational principles of our Republic.
Traditional religious beliefs on a host of issues from beginning and end of life, marriage, sexuality, and others are increasingly unpopular in American culture today. It is precisely the unpopular opinion or belief that is the most vulnerable in a democratic government and therefore in need of the most protection. The Constitution entrusts the federal judiciary with the authority and responsibility of being this bulwark against oppression of the minority by the majority for religious liberty and all other rights enumerated in this ingenious blueprint of American government.
In our current polarized, cancel culture, it is abundantly clear, an attempt by one party already in control of the legislative and executive branches to alter the makeup of the judicial branch would so brazenly violate the principle of separation of powers as to make the most independent branch of government a wholly-owned subsidiary of the other two. Expanding the membership of the United States Supreme Court is nothing more than a transparent, partisan scheme to achieve purely political objectives and exercise raw power.
It can’t be overstated; this would be a point of no return. If a Democrat President and Congress pack the Court, Republicans will respond in kind at the first opportunity. Then the Supreme Court becomes just another political institution, subject to the fleeting whims of the electorate. Federal judges are given lifetime tenure and not subject to elections to protect the God-given rights of the people, even from a popular majority, especially from a popular majority.
As Justice Stephen Breyer noted in his speech to the students and faculty of Harvard Law School on the day before President Biden announced his commission,
“If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, its confidence in the courts — and the rule of law itself — can only diminish, diminishing the court’s power, including its power to act as a check on other branches,”
he warned. A politicized judiciary means your constitutional rights are defined by the party in power. Once liberty is in the eyes of the beholder, we are no longer a nation governed by the rule of law we are ruled by men. If you think our elections are overheated and contentious now, wait until the Bill of Rights is up for grabs every two to four years.
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the height of his New Deal popularity proposed adding seats to the Supreme Court. He did so after the Court had declared some of his New Deal policies unconstitutional. Though his party enjoyed huge majorities in the House and Senate, opposition to court-packing was swift and bipartisan. Today, President Biden’s Democrat majority in the House is only five seats and the Senate stands deadlocked at 50-50. Moreover, recent polls show 68% of Americans are against court-packing.
And yet we find our elected officials debating what in 1983 then-Senator Biden referred to as a “bonehead idea.” It’s as if we’re living through a terrible sequel to an original movie that was bad to begin with. In American politics, like zombie movies, nothing is ever really over. Bad ideas come back repackaged with new slogans. Court-packing must be defeated again so that our most cherished God-given freedoms and the Constitutional structure constructed for their protection can endure for generations to come.
Note: This article was first published on Million Voices and is re-published here with permission. The article presents the main points of an op-ed published in Million Voices. This work was authored by Lathan Watts. The full article can be found on the Million Voices website, here.