October 14, 2020 – I keep hearing from progressives who lament that even if Biden wins, Trump and McConnell have tilted the playing field forever.
They point to McConnell’s rush to confirm Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, after blocking President Obama’s nominee for 293 days because it was “too close” to the next election. And to the fact that Republicans in the Senate represent 11 million fewer Americans than their Democratic counterparts, and are still able to confirm a Supreme Court justice and entrench minority rule.
But that’s not the end of the story.
The Constitution doesn’t prevent increasing the size of the Supreme Court in order to balance it. Or creating a pool of circuit court justices to cycle in and out of it. In fact, the Constitution says nothing at all about the size of the Court.
I also hear progressives express outrage that this imbalance of power exists in the Electoral College, which made Trump president in 2016 despite having lost the popular vote by 3 million, and made George W. Bush president in 2000, despite losing the popular vote by about half a million.
But this doesn’t have to be the end of the story, either. From granting statehood to Washington, D.C. to abolishing the Electoral College, nothing should be off the table to strengthen our democracy.
There is no reason to accept the structure of our democracy when it repeatedly empowers a ruthless minority to impose its will over the majority. Or when it denies full representation to U.S. citizens, as is the case for Puerto Rico, which absolutely deserves self-determination.
Pay no mind to those who argue that these moves would be unfair abuses of power. Unfair, after what Trump and McConnell have done?
Abuses of power? When Trump is urging his followers to intimidate Biden voters? When he won’t even commit to a peaceful transition of power and refuses to be bound by the results? When he’s already claiming the election is rigged against him and will be fraudulent unless he wins? When he’s threatening to have states that he loses declare the votes invalid and certify their own slate of Trump electors in January?
I’m sorry. There’s nothing unfair about making our democracy fairer. There’s no abuse of power in remedying blatant abuses of power.
Robert Reich’s latest book is “THE SYSTEM: Who Rigged It, How To Fix It,” out March 24.He is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the 10 most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written 17 other books, including the best sellers “Aftershock,””The Work of Nations,” “Beyond Outrage,” and “The Common Good.” He is a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, founder of Inequality Media, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentaries “Inequality For All,” and “Saving Capitalism,” both now streaming on Netflix.