There’s one thing we’ve forgotten to mention about political intimidation of the Supreme Court. It works.
On the right, and among those who respect history, tradition, and stability, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s court-packing gambit is remembered as a welcome rejection of radicalism: At the pinnacle of his influence, the most powerful president of the 20th century could not prevail on his scheme to expand the Supreme Court and fill it with like-minded, politically willful progressives, even though his party controlled both houses of Congress by decisive margins.
Yet, on the left, and especially among Alinskyites schooled in the extortionate leveraging of power, the court-packing threat is remembered as a triumph. It provoked the famous “switch in time that saved nine”: Fearful that FDR would follow through and destroy the court’s standing as a rule-of-law institution, the court — led by Justice Owen Roberts — dramatically shifted, upholding the New Deal it had been stalling, and ushering in the foundations of progressive governance.
Credible court-packing threats by the left intimidate moderate, politically minded justices, exactly as they are meant to do.
Duly cowed by today’s court-packing threats, Chief Justice John Roberts has steered the court into a possible disaster that has been foreseeable (and foreseen) for weeks. Wednesday night, the justices made clear that they will not resolve state voting law disputes prior to next Tuesday’s election. They will roll the dice on chaos, and all its potentially ruinous ramifications — not just for the country but for the court.
In a pair of 5-3 decisions, with the newly minted Justice Amy Coney Barrett intriguingly keeping to the sidelines, the justices declined to intervene in the Pennsylvania election case despite the patent lawlessness of the rewrite by that state’s highest court — which could enable fraud by requiring non-postmarked ballots to be counted for three days after the Tuesday election is supposed to be over.
Nor will the Supreme Court intervene in a North Carolina election law case that is nearly as egregious: one in which an unaccountable bureaucracy, the state Board of Elections, has presumed to rewrite state law by extending until nine days after the election the deadline for receiving ballots (although those ballots must be postmarked by or before Tuesday).