My NRO Essay on Court Packing

July 5th, 2018

National Review Online published my essay on Court packing. Here is the introduction:

Even though Republican presidents have appointed 14 of the last 18 justices, progressive causes have faced decent odds of prevailing at the Supreme Court for nearly a generation. Moderate Republican nominees such as Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O’Connor often swung to the left, while David Souter and John Paul Stevens became fixtures of the Court’s liberal bloc. With Justice Kennedy’s retirement, that string of luck may soon come to an end. Faced with this paradigm shift, progressives are coalescing around two responses.

In the short term, Democrats should use any means necessary to prevent President Trump from appointing a conservative replacement. However, if that strategy fails, Democrats should increase the size of the Supreme Court when they regain power. For very different reasons, neither of those approaches is likely to succeed. First, Democrats lack the parliamentary power to stop the process, unless they can persuade their entire caucus, as well as several moderate Republicans, to withhold their advice and consent. Second, Court expansion, without limits, would trigger a downward spiral that irreparably alters how our polity views the judiciary. A better path forward would be to reduce the significance of each nominee, while taking account of why the Court has become so important.