Progressives' Disdain for Institutions Is Starting to Haunt Them
This week the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, fulfilled his constitutional duties and informed the Senate and the world of his choice for the Supreme Court. The president chose Judge Brett Kavanaugh from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, a judge with strong Republican connections, a long history of legal opinions, strong academic credentials, and a long tenure in the federal bench. A judge with this impeccable record should receive a strong bipartisan vote; nevertheless, this confirmation process will become the most contested political fight of the year.
Since the announcement progressive’s forces have declared war on the nominee, “I will oppose Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination with everything I have.” declared Democratic senator Chuck Schumer. Yet despite the hysterical opposition to Judge Kavanaugh even before being named the nominee, there is little progressives can do stop him from becoming an Associate Judge of the Supreme Court, unless a Republican senator breaks rank. In the Senate a few years ago, it was possible for the minority party to block a nominee, but the ideology of progressivism and its disdain for institutions and traditions eliminated that possibility.
That means of stopping the nominee was the filibuster, a Senate rule that required a threshold of 60 votes to end the debate, to allow the nominee or legislation to progress to a vote. In 2013, then majority leader Harry Reid pushed through one the most significant changes in rules of the Senate for a long time, and in a partisan vote; removed the filibuster to all executive and judicial nominees except for the Supreme Court.
Senator Reid in the debate to change the Senate rules argued “The Senate is a living thing, and to survive it must change as it has over the history of this great country. To the average American, adapting the rules to make the Senate work again is just common sense.” In these few words we have the central pillar of progressivism; the U.S. Constitution, along with the institutions and traditions of America, are stumbling blocks, thus they must be reformed, democratized, or eliminated.
Since its inception in American politics more than 120 years ago, progressivism has been in an unrelenting march to pursue radical change. This march stems from the belief that government must be efficient in its response to the will of people, so any institution or tradition that hinders “progress” must change or be abolished. One of their answers was the introduction of direct democracy; the election by popular vote of U.S. senators, state initiatives, recall elections, referendums etc… Other solutions were the creation of the administrative state, particularly under President Woodrow Wilson, and the expansion of executive power and federal involvement in domestic policy.
Harry Reid’s rule change came straight from that progressive playbook. The filibuster on nominees was a stumbling block to the continuing of leftwing policies. Now that the filibuster was basically dead and thus created precedent, as Senator Mitch McConnell put it in 2013, "You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think,". Therefore is not surprising Mitch eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch.
You would think the progressives would have learned that institutions and traditions prevent transient majorities from doing all it wants. But in their hysterical opposition to the nominee, instead of advocating for a return to restraints; another more dangerous progressive idea is being floated around. The expansion of seats in the Supreme Court to fill them up with progressive justices which would destroy the legitimacy of this great institution.
The Judiciary act of 1869 established the number of eight associate justice’s seats, unchanged until now. However, in progressive circles many are arguing that a future progressive majority Congress should expand the number of seats in the Court. They argue that it will “democratize the Court” to make it a better reflection of election results and society as a whole. This Court-packing idea is not new -- it was last tried by President Franklin D. Roosevelt -- but for those who cherish the institution, traditions and customs of this great nation it’s a deeply concerning idea.
Progressives have always seen the model of our Founding Fathers embedded in the U.S. Constitution to be the greatest obstacle to their desires. The end of the filibuster, the implementation of direct democracy, and the campaign to end the electoral college are part of this concerted campaign to end all manners of restraints on power. Progressives are starting to learn the impact of their own misguided campaign, particularly in their inability to block a Republican Supreme Court nominee. The continued disdain for institutions and traditions which have preserved this great Republic will in the end come back to haunt them.
Ojel L. Rodriguez AKC (@ojelrodriguez) is a freelance writer and graduate from King’s College London.