This month the Indivisible Austin Book Club read It’s Time to Fight Dirty, by David Faris. After years of losing ground in Congress and state legislatures, and facing the possibility of an extremist Supreme Court, remedies are needed to bring our democratic systems back into balance.
This book has three prescriptives that need to be implemented the day after the new Democratic Congress is seated.
- Add Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico as states, adding 4 Democratic Senators immediately
- Expand the Supreme Court by adding 4 Justices
- Pass a new Voting Rights Act based entirely on the contents of the 15th Amendment that would;
- Eliminate Voter IDs
- Create automatic registration for citizens
- Create a National Holiday for elections
- Allow everyone to vote
- Impose harsh terms for any state that violated the law
None of the above items require a change to the Constitution.
The Republican Party has successfully managed to dilute the power of Democrats in Congress over the last 40 years. They have also dramatically tilted the Supreme Court to the point where they could begin reversing 40-year-old decisions. So much for stare decisis. Lastly, they have gone to immeasurable lengths to reduce the voting ability of the U.S. citizen to a 50/50 situation, where only a tiny number of seats can swing either way. The answer is to create a brand new voting process and to add more parties. If two-thirds of the populace generally leans to the left, that needs to be reflected in Congress.
Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico came close to becoming states between 2010 and 2012, but President Obama had Congress focused almost exclusively on the Affordable Care Act, so it didn’t happen. The proposal has been on the table for decades and it’s only Republicans who have prevented their admission.
The Constitution says nothing about the makeup of the Court, so there is nothing an “originalist” can quote in support of the current size of the Court. An immediate expansion by four justices over a high amount of invective from the Republicans would alleviate immediately the disaster of McConnell’s refusal to consider Merrick Garland after the death of Antonin Scalia.
An additional ruling would require that no justice could be active on the Court for more than 18 years and that the sitting President, of either party, could nominate a new justice every two years. The inactive justices become Emeritus, retaining their titles. Should a current justice leave the Court, then the last member active before becoming Emeritus would take that seat until it was filled.
If you think these changes to the Court seem even slightly radical, be aware that the Republicans already have plans to go farther in freezing or otherwise controlling the Court to meet their ideals, eliminating most social programs and further satisfying the oligarchy that currently rules the country.
There is currently a new Voting Rights Act making its way through Congress called the Fair Representation Act, introduced by Rep. Don Beyer in June of 2017. The basic idea is to eliminate our “winner take all” system and replace it with a process that would allow for multiple parties in the House. The British Parliament has a lower house with 650 members and a total population that’s a fraction of ours. Our House only has 435 members. And the ratios of representation by state are staggeringly out of proportion. Rectifying this would mean the “Freedom Caucus” could no longer bring the House to its knees.
So, while there’s a lot to be done, much of the ground work is in place. Existing legal writers on the Democratic side could start whipping these proposed laws into shape to be put before the deliberative bodies not months, but days after the turn over.
The next selection of the Indivisible Austin Book Club is Give Us the Ballot, by Ari Berman. To learn more about the book club, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.