An Issue For 2024

The Democrats have been late to the table when it comes to the importance of federal judges, especially Supreme Court justices. The 2022 election was the first where people who cited the Court as their primary voting motivation broke Democratic.

About 10 years ago I was criticized, by someone who (mistakenly) viewed themself as a civil right icon, for allowing judges to speak at Democratic Party functions that I then controlled the agenda of. That criticism included the statement, “What have judges ever done for us?” This person’s “us” meant Black people. I politely decided not to reply by saying Brown v Board of Education. There are instances where simply discontinuing the conversation doesn’t mean the other person won; it means you are smart enough to not waste your time any further.

So much for my trip down memory lane. A Court related issue is ripe for the pickings if Democrats will only do so. Dobbs is the biggest, but not only, recent Court decision that has angered the majority of American voters. Add to that the recent revelations of what most of us would consider the questionable (I’m being kind in my choice of words again) actions by Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

In Gorsuch’s case he sold a property (that he had been trying to unload for about two years) to Brian Duffy who is CEO of a law firm that frequently has business before the Court. In his financial disclosure he listed the transaction but left the buyer’s name blank. This defies logic and fails to pass the smell test but is actually perfectly legal for a Supreme Court Justice. The legality of several of Thomas’ failures to disclose are even more questionable.

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois who is also the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee (which has oversight responsibility over the Court) invited Chief Justice John Robert to testify about Court ethics and reporting. As was widely anticipated in political circles, Roberts declined the invitation. In his reply to Durbin, he stated that felt the current guidelines and regulations were adequate. Roberts may or may not sincerely feel that way (for the sake of this discussion I won’t question his integrity) but the majority of the American people certainly don’t!

Now here is the political move that can solidify this as a winning 2024 campaign issue for Democratic candidates including Joe Biden. First the Senate must pass a Supreme Court ethic reform bill independent of any other reforms. (I support many other proposed reforms but that will only serve to muddy the waters and give people an excuse not to vote for a more wide-ranging bill.) Then Biden must make a public statement(s) that he would sign such legislation when it reached his desk.

That puts the ball in Kevin McCarthy’s court. Far be it from me to ever accuse McCarthy of being a political genius but I doubt even he would be so inept as to bring the bill to the floor and put his caucus members on record as opposing it. Democrats can still point to the Republicans killing the bill in the House.

It appears that Democratic leaning voters have finally (and it may have taken too long) realized that the courts are an issue. This will not be the primary or even secondary issue in 2024 (and don’t forget those Senate races) but it can motivate some voters to vote Democratic and I expect a lot of close contests. Another arrow in the quiver never hurts.

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One thought on “An Issue For 2024”

  1. Excellent observations. Now, will Durbin have the courage to subpoena Roberts? Democrats mean well, but they are terrible at hardball. C’mon Dick!

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