Democrats Change Definition of “Court Packing” Amid Criticism

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  • 03/02/2023

Amid constant pressure from Republicans to answer one simple question — do Biden and Harris plan to “pack” the supreme court if elected — Democrats have all but said “of course." The left’s newest answer to the question is an attempt to completely redefine the phrase “packing the court,” in an apparent attempt to turn the question back around on the right. They have so far done so with impressive speed and coordination.

Biden recently answered “no” when local news asked if voters “deserve to know” whether or not he plans to pack the court, but Harris has been more crafty with her wording, often playing with the meaning of the term herself.

When repeatedly asked during the VP debate to answer the question of whether or not a Biden administration would pack the court, Kamala Harris refused to answer the question. She did at one point respond with a false, fanciful story about Abraham Lincoln, but then pivoted. “Yeah, let’s talk about packing the court then,” said Harris, before starting in on a condemnation of the Trump administrations' appointments to federal courts.

“Do you know that of the 50 people who President Trump appointed to the court of appeals for lifetime appointments, not one is Black? This is what they’ve been doing. You want to talk about packing a court, let’s have that discussion,” she said.

“Court packing,” although a colloquial term, has for decades been universally used to refer to the act of expanding the size of the court, with connotation that the effort is motivated by potential political gain.

By the Monday beginning of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Democrats had successfully redefined the term “court packing” in their own circles to mean something more like any politicized action surrounding federal courts aside from expanding it.

"Can we at least recognize that 'Court Packing' at all levels of the judiciary has been the Republican playbook for decades? Asking for Merrick Garland,” said Dan Rather Saturday.

The Republican’s refusal to confirm judge Merrick Garland in 2016 fell in line with what has traditionally happened when the Presidency and the Senate are controlled by different parties, and although it has been a consistent point of contention, it has not previously been widely referred to as “court packing.” Likely because it is not an example of “court packing” as it is defined when Republicans ask Biden if he plans to “pack the court.”

"Sen. Chris Coons just told Chris Wallace on Fox that the Senate confirming Amy Coney Barrett 'constitutes court-packing.' That statement is constitutionally unintelligible...," George Washington University legal scholar Jonathan Turley tweeted Sunday, adding in the same thread "...It is logically and constitutionally absurd to call the filling of a vacancy on the Court as a form of 'court packing.' It does not increase the size of the Court and is done in complete conformity with the constitutional framework."

But as conservatives are rejecting these characterizations by continuing to cite the accepted “increase the size of the Court” definition as Turley does, such an argument may not be effective in the face of others who do not revere accepted definitions as an essential part of discourse.

On Saturday, VP for Democracy and Government Reform at American Progress Sam Berger posted a graph captioned “Conservative court packing in one chart,” showing the “number of appellate judges confirmed but the U.S Senate, 2007-2010 and 2015-2018.”

"Conservatives’ stealth court-packing plan Step 1: Steal seats by blocking confirmation of judges until White House and Senate are under conservative control. Step 2: Change the rules to appoint the most partisan conservative judges at breakneck speed,” Berger added.

Aside from any conversation surrounding the veracity of Berger’s tweet, the “plan” he describes is not one of “court packing” as it has been defined in American political discourse up to this point.

"If you agree that today's #SCOTUS hearing is a COURT PACKING sham, raise your hand,” tweeted the Democratic Coalition Monday.

But the attempt to redefine doesn’t simply involve expanding the definition. Rather, many are also insisting that an expansion of the court by Democrats should not be referred to as “court packing,” effectively rendering the phrase meaningless, with a definition hinging only on the political inclination of the person uttering it.

"Any Democrat who uses the term 'court packing’ to describe expanding the number of seats on the Supreme Court should be smacked upside the head. This is not only idiotic politics. More importantly it is wrong, incorrect, not what anyone is proposing,” Talking Points Memo founder Josh Marshall said Sunday.

"Will Democrats expand the Court? The substantive answer should be, absolutely. The political answer is, we’ll have to see what Republicans do. If they continue to abuse their power we’ll have no choice,” he added.

On Sunday, Tom Bevan of Real Clear politics called attention to a quote from the Associated Press, that characterized “adding judges to the bench” one of many “measures to depoliticize the court,” and condemned the phrase “packing the courts” as one used by “critics” of the “practice."

"With lightning speed, the Associated Press adopts Democrats' language on SCOTUS: adding members is now 'depoliticizing' the court, only 'critics' refer to it as 'packing'," pointed out Bevan.

Author and political commentator James Lindsay has studied, exposed, and poignantly criticized this type of political language manipulation from what he calls the “woke” left and academia. His latest book, Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity―and Why This Harms Everybody, addresses the impact of this type of “divorce from truth” has on our current political discourse and explains that "the key of postmodernism as a social philosophy is that whether a claim is true or not doesn’t matter and misses the point. All that matters is how that claim can be used politically."

He explained to Human Events that the quickness to change the accepted meaning of “court packing” is tied to the left’s ongoing willing assault on objective truth.

"The 'Woke' believe that systemic power dynamics are the ordinary state of affairs in society and automatically politicize everything,” Lindsay said. “They therefore take it as a default state that politics is a permanent feature of everything that happens, and so there are 'right' politics and 'wrong' politics, but no not-politics. This is the point from which their analysis starts, so it is a presumption not a conclusion.”

"The logic is a bit tortured, but if you start from the assumption that systemic oppressive power is everywhere, you can also see how it makes sense in a twisted, completely wrongheaded way,” Lindsay explained.

"This statement about the Supreme Court would be the same but with the added element, which many left-partisans will find highly credible, that a 6-3 conservative court is intrinsically 'politicized,' not just by the overarching power dynamics but quite literally. The Woke would understand each justice as being political both in the left/right divide and in the liberation/oppression divides they read into everything, however, and would endeavor to put at least a slight majority of literally Woke justices in the Supreme Court to 'depoliticize' it by 'balancing' out the range of 'political' positions in the liberation/oppression paradigms.”


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