I take no position on whether the best approach for Dems is to boycott the hearings into whatever 40-something Federalist Society hack Trump and McConnell barf up for the Senate’s “consideration.” But all of this is correct:
This brings us to the most important step: Democrats should commit to the structural reforms necessary to undo the damage Republicans have wrought. Republicans were able to block Judge Merrick Garland and install a conservative majority on the Supreme Court despite representing less than half of the population. The Senate overrepresents white conservatives, while minority voters are more underrepresented than at any time since 1870. A white conservative minority imposing its will on a diverse majority — in part through federal judges serving lifetime appointments — is a fundamentally unhealthy dynamic for our democracy.
If Democrats win the White House and the Senate in November, they can pass reforms to rebalance our democracy through simple majority votes. The only thing standing in the way will be the filibuster — a procedural mutation that was not a part of the original Senate and that has been manipulated in recent decades to transform the Senate from the framers’ vision of a majority-rule institution into one where most business requires 60 votes (or a “supermajority”) to pass. There are many good reasons to get rid of the filibuster, but Republicans jamming through a nominee should motivate any hesitant Democrats to commit to eliminating it if they take back power.
Without the filibuster, reforms can be passed by simple majority votes, as the framers intended. Democrats should commit to reforming the Supreme Court: They can add seats to the court; apply age or term limits; or pass any of a range of credible proposals. Congress has the prerogative to change the court, including its size, which it has done six times since the founding.
Democrats should also reform the Senate so it better represents the nation. They can start by inviting territories bound by federal law but lacking voting representation in Congress to become states. The District of Columbia has roughly a similar or greater population as Wyoming or North Dakota, while Puerto Rico has more people than 20 states. Both deserve to become states if they so choose.
Committing to these changes now will enable Democrats to move quickly if they take back power.
Some commentators have floated the idea of shutting down the government (funding runs out on Sept. 30). But this would backfire politically, and the Senate can confirm a nominee even if the government is shut down. It’s a bad idea.
My position on judicial and Senate reform measures is well-known here. But the point about the government shut down would be a classic “we must do something and this is something” own goal — it wouldn’t stop McConnell from confirming the nominee on the one hand and on the other hand they generally represent one of few cases in which Congress rather than the president is assigned responsibility for something extremely unpopular by the public. Ultimately, if 50 Republican senators believe it’s in whatever combination of ideological and political interests to confirm a midnight nominee there’s nothing Democrats can do about it. The primary focus should be winning as many Senate seats as you can and if you take over the Senate and White House quickly kill the filibuster and quickly pass as many structural reform measures as you can.