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You may recall that, back in February, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of Rhode Island, declared war on the dark-money-Federalist Society conveyor belt that is bringing us all of this administration’s federal judges while simultaneously taking the law back to 1881. These days, as the butcher’s bill for the pandemic blows through the 100,000-mark, and with the president* throwing buckets of vile deflection all over the Intertoobz, the only thing that the United States Senate actually is doing right now is running that conveyor belt at top speed. Comes now the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee with the latest salvo in this ongoing brawl. It is in every way a partisan document, but, as I was saying to Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland just the other day, fck the begrudgers anyway.
The emphasis is not so much on the judges themselves, but on the corruption injected into the nominating process by dark money and the groups that spread it around. It’s the dark money that supports the intellectual terrariums in which these larval Scalias are raised. It supports the politicians who have greased the skids for them through the confirmation process. It floats the boat for Mitch McConnell, who has made it his life’s work to remake the federal courts in Stephen Field’s image, and who is very close to accomplishing that.
Under Chief Justice Roberts, the Court’s Republican-appointed five-justice majority handed down 80 partisan 5-4 decisions—joined by no Democratic appointee—that delivered wins to the Republican Party and the big corporate interests behind it. These decisions have had (and will have) an enduring impact on voting rights, labor protections, environmental protections, civil rights, gun safety, and reproductive rights. The most flagrant of these partisan decisions—Shelby County v. Holder and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission—have rigged the very rules of our democracy for Republican Party interests, resulting in voter suppression and corruption of our government through unlimited special-interest political spending. Those notorious partisan decisions are just the tip of the iceberg—there are dozens and dozens more. By bare partisan majorities in these 80 decisions, Republican justices have greenlighted GOP gerrymandering and hobbled America’s unions.
They have slammed courthouse doors shut for workers and consumers, and gutted public safety regulations that kept our air and water clean. They have weaponized the Second Amendment to stymie sensible gun safety regulations, and curtailed access to reproductive health care.
The report goes on to detail how the usual suspects—the Kochs, Bradleys, et. al.—have put almost a quarter-billion dollars into the spin cycle to finance this radical plan to remake the federal judiciary into the rest of the century. Dozens of front groups, all sluicing in to support the work of the Federalist Society and its former president, Leonard Leo, who has been the administration*’s point man on judges. And the dark money is certainly getting what it’s paid for.
Today, in pursuit of that “conquest,” a conveyor belt of candidates ideologically vetted by the Federalist Society plows through the nomination and confirmation process without meaningful review. Confirmation has become virtually automatic—a step in an assembly line finely tuned to achieve political and policy results through the judiciary. As a result of Senate Republicans’ abdication of their constitutional duty, Trump’s judicial nominees are younger, less experienced, and more ideologically extreme than any president’s in history, and less diverse than any president’s in decades. And many, such as D.C. Circuit Judge Neomi Rao, are plucked directly from Leonard Leo’s network, sent to the bench on a mission to protect President Trump and “dismantle the administrative state.”
Democratic candidates have been particularly ham-fisted in using the courts as a political issue, while Republicans have made the judiciary central to their national and local campaigns. If this report is a sign that the Democrats are finally getting it on this issue, it’s about damn time.
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