Supreme Court: Unleashing the whirlwind
Unable to get the Supreme Court to agree with them, Democrats led by New York Sen. Charles Schumer have turned to a “shameful” effort to “bully the courts,” said Carrie Campbell Severino in NationalReview.com. “I want to tell you, [Neil] Gorsuch! I want to tell you, [Brett] Kavanaugh!” Schumer thundered last week at an abortion-rights rally in front of the Supreme Court, “you have released the whirlwind and you will pay the price!” It was a brazen, personal threat that the Democrats would exact vengeance if the justices didn’t vote Schumer’s way in a Louisiana abortion case. When Chief Justice John Roberts called Schumer on this “unprecedented attack,” Schumer claimed he meant only that Republicans would be punished at the ballot box, said David Harsanyi in the New York Post. That’s a lie—it’s very clear to anyone that this was “a transparent attempt to intimidate.”
Schumer “didn’t necessarily start this fight,” said Dahlia Lithwick in Slate.com. If his words sounded familiar, it’s because they echo what Kavanaugh himself said in his confirmation hearing, when he threatened that if liberal senators blocked him, they’d reap a “whirlwind” felt “for decades to come.” Roberts ignored that, just as he’s ignored Trump’s “direct attacks” on federal judges and targeting of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor. “Umpire Roberts clearly can only see one side of the plate.” The Republican outrage is “a cynical attempt to distract from the real issue at hand,” said Marge Baker in USAToday.com. Schumer was talking about political consequences if women are stripped of their reproductive rights, and he’s not the only one pointing out that “alarming decisions” from courts packed with “extreme ideologues” have electoral consequences.
But “even that charitable reading is grim,” said Ian Millhiser in Vox.com. If he didn’t intend to make a personal threat, it’s still clear Schumer “believes that the judiciary places partisan politics ahead of the law.” That view reflects “a much deeper rot within American democracy.” Democracies “depend as much on informal norms as they do upon constitutional rules.” When party leaders violate those norms, they invite a “death spiral” in which each party uses the other’s transgressions to justify its own. Trump may have written the book on norm violation, but if Democrats respond in kind, we could easily end up “riding this spiral to the bottom.” ■