Supreme Court shows just how much of a problem ‘minority rule’ is in the US: experts

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, driven by conservative High Court judges, sent shockwaves across the country and sparked criticism around the world.

The decision overturned nearly half a century of legalized abortion in the United States. Leading progressives in Washington like Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have called the move undemocratic and a sign that the United States is under “minority rule.” They pointed to a recent poll that shows a majority of Americans support abortion in most or all cases, while pointing out that most conservatives on the Supreme Court were nominated by Republican presidents who lost. the popular vote.

Top political scientists tell Insider that the Roe ruling itself isn’t necessarily undemocratic per se, but the ruling — in addition to other back-to-back court rulings in recent days — raises questions and concerns about minority rule. in the USA. They also pointed out that American democracy more generally finds itself in a troubling state, in large part because of the Republican Party’s lack of respect for democratic norms and institutions.

The Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization – the case that saw Roe overturned – ‘wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t had the Electoral College’, Archon Fung, Winthrop Laflin McCormack Professor of Citizenship and Self-Government at Harvard Kennedy School, Insider said.

Fung said the ruling is an example of “indirect minority rule in the sense that minority rule issues in our congressional institutions have generated the peculiar court that we have.”

He also called the Roe decision “a blow to the rule of law” in that it reversed decades of legalized abortion – taking away a right people had depended on for years. “Part of the rule of law is that you can count on tomorrow being a lot like yesterday,” Fung said.

“I strongly believe that a woman’s right to choose is an important right because it is essential to women’s freedom, equality and dignity. I believe in it deeply,” Fung said.

He added that he was ‘intrigued’ by claims that the ruling itself was a blow to democracy because the ruling effectively returned the matter to states and elected representatives of the people – or to the democratic process. . But he acknowledged that there are a number of “democratically problematic states,” including those where a majority of voters support abortion licensing while their legislatures simultaneously act to restrict or ban access.

Despite failing to win a majority of votes nationally in recent elections, Republicans “control a disproportionate share of political power due to a combination of institutional bias and organized and manipulated drunker politicians,” said Sheri Berman, a democracy expert at Barnard College. says Insider.

It’s a problem for democracy, Berman added, “because each side is now so entrenched in its hatred of the other that it’s ready to do things that undermine the system as a whole.” Berman said “Republicans are far more culpable in this regard” – underscoring the GOP’s endorsement of Trump’s unprecedented effort to overturn the 2020 election results.

“The really problematic contemporary force here, in my view, is the Republican Party,” Berman said.

And it’s not because of GOP policies, Berman added, but because of the party’s role in “undermining the democratic rules of the game.”

Republicans played ‘quickly and freely with the rules of democracy’

Trump stands with current Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House after being sworn in on October 26, 2020.

Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett at the White House after being sworn in on October 26, 2020.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images


Berman said it was ‘blatant’ for Republicans to play ‘fast and free with the rules of democracy’ by derailing the nomination of a judge under President Barack Obama – Merrick Garland – and then rushing to appoint a conservative judge – Amy Coney Barrett – during the final days of the Trump administration.

There is “nothing inherently ‘wrong’ with having a majority of party-appointed judges,” Berman continued. But the court is also meant to be non-partisan or “at least a ‘check and balance’ against the other branches,” Berman said, “so when judges’ decisions become an easily predictable function of their back- partisan plan, which neutralizes its ability to act as an arbiter of our political system and overall diminishes its legitimacy.”

For Berman, a recent Gallup poll shows that confidence in the Supreme Court has reached an all-time low (25%).

“This court is clearly a Republican court,” Jason Stanley, an authoritarianism expert at Yale, said during an interview on PBS’s “Amanpour and Company” this week, warning that the United States was moving toward a state at unique part.

“This tribunal is very clearly a partisan tribunal” that “carries out an overtly partisan agenda” via decisions like Roe v. Wade, Stanley said, calling it “extremely disturbing.”

“We had a president voted by a minority of the people to appoint three hard-right Supreme Court justices,” Stanley continued, alluding to former President Donald Trump and the conservative justices added to the court during his tenure. , going on to say they’re “fulfilling, point by point, a Republican Party platform.”

Lee Drutman, political scientist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, in a tweet said Thursday that America’s democratic institutions “failed to represent strong majorities on the environment, guns and abortion,” adding that this “negligence allowed a vengeful Supreme Court to impose a minority regime”.

“It’s time to improve our political institutions,” Drutman added. “It’s time for proportional representation.”

Fung said he was “extremely concerned” about the state of American democracy, particularly regarding Americans’ growing mistrust of fundamental institutions. “Citizens, elected officials and judges must do all they can to rebuild towards a path in which these institutions have more legitimacy,” Fung said.

Similarly, Berman said it’s concerning that people on both sides of the political spectrum are “confusing decisions they don’t like with undemocratic or undemocratic decisions.”

Deciding that states should decide whether abortion should be legal isn’t inherently undemocratic, Berman said, but how Republicans have acted on Supreme Court justice nominations in addition to their dangerous endorsement of government efforts former President Donald Trump to cancel the 2020 election results is indeed undemocratic.

Americans should use democracy to fight decisions they disagree with, Berman said, while doing all they can to “protect the (democratic) system that allows them to (peacefully and regularly) for their policies to be carried out”.

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