Why Expanding SCOTUS Must Be a Transition Priority

Good evening. Voting in the 2020 presidential election ends in 8 days.

The Topline

“This is something to really be proud of and feel good about. We made an important contribution to the future of this country. A lot of what we have done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. It won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

-Mitch McConnell on Amy Coney Barrett’s likely SCOTUS confirmation

Packing the courts with right-wing judges has always been Mitch McConnell’s priority as Senate majority leader. It’s been clear that he’d sacrifice the Senate majority to get as many judges on the bench (and block as many left of center nominees) as he possibly could. A 6-3 Supreme Court is the crown jewel of McConnell’s Senate career — because McConnell understands as well as anyone that Republicans can no longer win a free and fair election without changing their party platform. They’ve chosen power over democracy and packing the courts is an important part of how they plan to hold onto power, even as the majority of Americans don’t support their policy agenda. 

McConnell’s remarks suggest he also doesn’t think Joe Biden has it in him to expand SCOTUS and reform the federal judiciary more broadly. He’s confident that even if Republicans lose the White House and the Senate, Democrats won’t make meaningful reforms. Based on Joe Biden’s recent punt — in which he called for a bipartisan commission to study judicial reform, instead of pledging to expand the Supreme Court — I’m worried that McConnell might be right. 

As annoyed as I am by Biden’s punt, it’s a good reminder that the work doesn’t stop on Election Day. The Right has shown us again and again that it believes the rules no longer apply — and the system can no longer function if a large enough group of people (or a major political party) no longer bothers with democratic norms. Pressuring Biden on SCOTUS is part of the work we’ll have to do post-election, and assuming Biden wins, the transition period is the right time to start.

There’s no doubt that legal scholars and groups like the American Constitution Society will submit memos to Biden’s transition office, but that alone won’t be enough. We need to demonstrate public support for expanding the Supreme Court and making additional reforms to the judiciary. Our new President, Senators, and Members of Congress need to hear from us loud and clear.

I absolutely believe the Biden Administration can be pressured to do the right thing here. But I have no illusions that it will be an easy fight. We’ve got our work cut out for us. Here’s hoping we can prove Mitch McConnell’s assumptions wrong.

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Driving the Conversation 

Regardless of origins or intent, these attacks on the perceived integrity of the 2020 election represent a threat to democracy itself. If we are not able to trust and accept the outcomes of our democratic processes — e.g., the vote — then our democracy itself is at risk.

Almost every Black Georgia voter queuing up at the polls has a story about 2018.

Most waited for hours in lines that wrapped around their voting locations. Some were removed from the voter rolls arbitrarily, forcing them to fill out confusing provisional ballots on Election Day. Others stayed home altogether and — after watching Democrat Stacey Abrams lose the gubernatorial race by fewer than 60,000 votes — regretted that decision.

On a recent Tuesday evening, about 1,500 people gathered virtually to consider some previously unthinkable questions. They were students and retirees, veteran activists and rookies, residents of Anchorage and Manchester and Boston and Honolulu.

If President Trump carried through on his threats and refused to accept a loss in the Nov. 3 election, what were they prepared to do?

Facebook teams have planned for the possibility of trying to calm election-related conflict in the U.S. by deploying internal tools designed for what it calls “at-risk” countries, according to people familiar with the matter.

The emergency measures include slowing the spread of viral content and lowering the bar for suppressing potentially inflammatory posts, the people said. Previously used in countries including Sri Lanka and Myanmar, they are part of a larger tool kit developed by Facebook to prepare for the U.S. election.

Twitter said Monday it would begin placing messages at the top of users’ feeds to pre-emptively debunk false information about voting by mail and election results, an escalation of the tech company’s battle against misinformation.

Twitter is calling the messages a “pre-bunk,” something it says it has never done, because the debunking is not a reaction to an existing tweet with misinformation.

Calls To Action 

This week MediaJustice and the Disinfo Defense League are hosting the Week of Action Against Disinformation, a week of virtual events gathering dozens of civil rights and racial justice organizations to combat disinformation targeting communities of color. This week of action will be used to organize and push back against bad actors using sophisticated disinformation campaigns to silence and suppress the power of voters of color.

There are virtual events planned every day. You can learn more by following @MediaJustice on Twitter or the #DisruptDisinfo hashtag.

Your Moment of Cute

Thanks for reading tonight’s edition of American Interregnum.  We all deserve some cuteness to start our evening off right. Here is a compilation video of babies and puppies becoming instant best friends. 

American Interregnum is a pop-up newsletter covering the Presidential transition period from November 3, 2020, to January 21, 2021. It is written and edited by Justin Hendrix, Greg Greene, and Melissa Ryan. Got questions or comments? We love your feedback. Reply directly to this email. We read all responses and respond to most.