Court-packing

Brett “Boof” Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s previous extremist pick, to fill the Supreme Court seat Anthony Kennedy gave up after negotiating the terms of his retirement with Trump’s lawyers, snorted indignantly and literally cried to the Senate Judiciary Committee about “millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups” [1] deployed by rabid partisans to unfairly sink his nomination and viciously destroy his life.

In fact, millions of dollars have been spent by outside right-wing groups to make sure committed Federalist Society ideologues like Mr. Kavanaugh, like today’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett, get confirmed for lifetime judicial positions. That these lifetime judicial nominees may sometimes be deemed too inexperienced, or outright unqualified, or show themselves to lack judicial temperament (see Kavanaugh’s snorting “rebuttal” to charges that while drunk in high school he did things to a younger girl against her will) — no matter, the American Bar Association is a well-known Communist front group and liberals blindly hate good, honest, God-fearing conservatives. And besides, 51-49 wins every time.

Extreme right-wing billionaire Charles Koch, never shy about spending to promote his belief in libertarianism — a dream world where government leaves the rich and their property alone and harshly polices everyone else — is on the verge of victory with a long dreamed of 6-3 ideologically pure corporatist majority on the Supreme Court. He and his Kochtopus network of wealthy right-wing fellow travelers have spent untold, untraceable millions on this project in the last four or five decades. Nice op ed in the NY Times today on the subject. Here’s a taste:

Judge Barrett’s nomination is the latest battleground in his decades-long war to reshape American society in a way that ensures that corporations can operate with untrammeled freedom. It may be a pivotal one.

Since the early 1970s, Mr. Koch has sought to dismantle most federal regulatory institutions, and the federal courts have been central to that battle. In 1974, Mr. Koch gave a blistering speech to a libertarian think tank, called the Institute for Humane Studies, in which he outlined his vision of the American regulatory state, and the strategy he would employ over the ensuing decades to realize that vision. On the list of government interventions he condemned were “confiscatory taxation, wage and price controls, commodity allocations programs, trade barriers, restrictions on foreign investments, so-called equal opportunity requirements, safety and health regulations, land use controls, licensing laws, outright government ownership of businesses and industries.” As if that list were not exhaustive enough, he added, “… and many more interventions.” In short, Charles Koch believes that an unregulated free market is the only sustainable structure for human society.

By the way, speaking of “humane studies,” every time I listen to a podcast on my phone app, I have to first close an ad from Charles Koch’s favorite “think tank”, the mischievously named Institute for Humane Studies. I see their ad for paid graduate school fellowships, featuring two young black scholars, a male and a female, not 90% of the time, mind you, it is there every single time I open the app to listen to Democracy Now! Somewhere indomitable octogenarian Charles Koch is cackling.

Keep in mind, Koch has an army of paid activists, marshaled by Americans for Prosperity and like groups, tirelessly promoting libertarian dogma among the American citizenry. They were active in the sustained effort to get Kavanaugh confirmed, an effort that cost “seven figures”. They are very active in this final Trump appointment in progress. It is do or die– they have only weeks to do what generally takes months to accomplish. Of course, in the end, it’s 51-49 suck it.

Today, historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote a thorough short history of the largely successful conservative project to create a permanent one-party conservative government, through court packing with ideological true believers they have been grooming in law schools since 1982. As she points out, they’ve bizarrely managed to put Biden on the media spot about his charged “court packing” when the side Mr. Trump currently leads has appointed 15 of the last 19 Supreme Court judges, McConnell has packed the federal bench with young true believers and is making history by forcing through a nomination days before an election. Plus, of course, adding justices to the court is legal and may be proper at this point,the Constitution is silent on the number of judges who shall sit on the court anyway.

This is from her important piece, which I highly recommend you read in its entirety (it’s not very long):

… And yet, today the chair of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, told Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face The Nation” that she would not talk about Trump’s financial scandals because “You have a Democrat running on the biggest power grab – the absolute biggest power grab in the history of our country and reshaping the United States of America and not answering the question. That’s all we should be talking about.” The media seems to be taking this distracting bait.

What makes this so especially bizarre is that it is Republicans, not Democrats, who have made the courts the centerpiece of their agenda and have packed them with judges who adhere to an extremist ideology. Since the Nixon administration began in 1969, Democrats have appointed just 4 Supreme Court justices, while Republicans have appointed 15.

The drive to push the court to the right has led Republicans under Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to take the unprecedented step of refusing to hold a hearing for Barack Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, the moderate Merrick Garland, on the grounds that it was wrong to appoint a Supreme Court justice during an election year. There have been 14 justices confirmed during election years in the past, but none has ever been confirmed after July before an election.

Obama nominated Garland in March 2016, but now, in October, McConnell is ramming through Trump’s nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Americans are worried that the increasingly conservative cast to the court does not represent the country. Four, and now possibly five, of the current justices were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, and have been confirmed by senators who represent a minority of the American people: Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate support represented just 44% of the country.

So there is talk of increasing the size of the Supreme Court. This is legal. The Constitution does not specify the size of the court, and it has changed throughout our history. But the current number of justices—9— has been around for a long time. It was established in 1869. Nonetheless, in 2016, when it looked like Hillary Clinton was going to win the presidency, Republicans announced that they would not fill any Supreme Court seats during her term, and if that meant they had to reduce the size of the Supreme Court, they were willing.

Instead, with Trump in the White House, the Republican Senate has pushed through judges at all levels as quickly as it possibly can.

This is no accident. Since Nixon, Republicans have made control of the nation’s courts central to their agenda. But while most voters tend to get distracted by the hot-button issues of abortion or gay rights, what Republican Supreme Courts have done is to consolidate the power of corporations.

And here is the single best question to ask this impartial jurist who seeks to cement the permanent right-wing majority on the Court for many of our lifetimes. Posed by a comedian, it is a seriously perfect question to put to the highly moralistic Trump-appointed federal Judge Amy Coney Barrett:

Looky here (you learn something every day):

Comedian (and lawyer) J-L Cauvin asks the question Senate Democrats must ask of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett

[1]

the heart of Kavanuagh’s tearfully delivered demonstration that he lacks the judicial character and nonpartisan fairness to be on the Supreme Court. He dismissed the un-investigated accusations of a woman who credibly testified (in the face of death threats) that Kavanaugh traumatized her decades earlier as part of:

the typo is mine: it should read “pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election”

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