The Supreme Court is finished: Republicans have killed it. Now it's time to fight back

Trump and McConnell have corrupted the Supreme Court and th judicial branch for a generation. Time to fight dirty

By Lucian K. Truscott IV


Published September 26, 2020 8:00AM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Call it what it already is: Donald Trump's Supreme Court, and it's as corrupt as he is, as cynical as he is, as outright stupid as he is, as racist as he is, as fascist as he is. The Republican Party killed it, and Trump is driving another nail in its coffin with the nomination of arch-conservative Catholic Amy Coney Barrett. RBG is gone, and look at who Barrett will join: Clarence Thomas? A clown. Samuel Alito? A rubber-stamp hack. Neil Gorsuch?  A replacement bell-ringer for racism. Brett Kavanaugh? A weepy beer-swilling prep-monster. John Roberts? He wrote the brilliant line, "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race." Tell that to George Floyd, Johnny boy.

But they know the job they've been put there to do. Trump as much as told them this week when he said, "I think it's very important that we have nine justices. It's better if you go before the election, because I think this scam that the Democrats are pulling — it's a scam — the scam will be before the United States Supreme Court." 

There it is, folks, right out in the open. The "scam" Trump is referring to is voting for Joe Biden. He may look like he's contesting the election on the campaign trail, screeching and hissing and sniffling at his rallies, thumbing out his endless apocalyptic fascist tweets, threatening to jail his opponents and throwing other chunks of red meat to his ravenous racist hordes. But don't be fooled. The Republican Party has been counting on the courts to win their elections for decades. Trump's real "base" is his five, and soon six, voters on the Supreme Court.

These cynical bastards have been playing the long game. They have been looking out there on their golf fairways, and they've seen who's riding the mowers and trimming the bushes and grooming the greens. They have looked at the workers on the floors of their chicken factories, and manning the counters of their fast food empires, and they have walked past their own housekeepers and nannies who are watching over their own children. They are surrounded by brown people and Black people, even in their own homes and in their own businesses. They know what's coming. The Republican Party is out of the closet as the White Party in a country that is inexorably turning browner and blacker and more Asian, peopled with more, not fewer, immigrants. How else do you account for the rise to power of Stephen Miller and Ken Cuccinelli and their ilk? They're in government to do the bidding of their masters, to slow down the brown horde, to throw sand in the gears of a demographic machine that is slowly grinding their political future into electoral hamburger. 

They know it's getting harder and harder for them to win at the ballot box. Look at what happened to them in 2018. The last two Republican presidents lost the popular vote and yet attained the White House by way of narrow wins in the Electoral College. Why do you think they established the Federalist Society, the right-wing finishing school for judgeships that has provided the Republicans with virtually every one of its 300 appointments to the federal bench under McConnell and Trump? Why do you think they consciously defenestrated the Voting Rights Act with Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice John Roberts' gift to his Republican masters? Because they were looking for more fairness in the nation's electoral process? Please. That decision threw the door open to the greatest racist fiddling with the electoral process since Jim Crow. It's the reason we're going into the election of 2020 with such uncertainty about who is eligible to vote and where, what the rules are for voting by mail, which polling places will be open, and whether or not the voting machines will even work. They don't want voting. They want chaos.

They've turned the courts into a kennel for right-wing puppies, willing to sit there with floppy ears and their tongues out, panting and waiting to decide cases in favor of the billionaires who put them there. That's why there is a cottage industry of right-wing legal groups like Judicial Watch, Alliance Defending Freedom, Claremont Institute and the Center for Individual Rights, all of them funded by tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions in right-wing money. They make no bones about the fact that their job is to go out looking for plaintiffs to sue on behalf of big business and right-wing political interests to overturn laws they don't like. They have been behind the challenges to the Affordable Care Act and every anti-abortion lawsuit ever filed, not to mention suits against immigrant rights, civil rights, LGBT rights — you name it. And waiting in federal courthouses all over the country are Trump and Mitch McConnell's judicial poodles.  

Trump and McConnell and the rest of them have packed the Supreme Court and every level of federal bench beneath it with unqualified goofs and loons and dominionists and members of religious secret societies and misogynists and drooling, ignorant losers. Hearings of the Senate Judiciary Committee over the last three years have been overwhelmed by inexperienced hacks who couldn't answer simple questions from Democratic senators that pointed straight to their lack of qualifications for the federal bench. Every one of them was approved on party-line votes. The amazing thing is that even with all of his goofs on the court, whenever he sees a verdict or judge's sentence he doesn't like, he issues a pardon, commutes a sentence, or sics his chief attack dog, William Barr, on it.  

You don't need to hear from me about the travesty of McConnell's treatment of the Merrick Garland nomination, and I'm so tired of typing the word "hypocrisy" I've got carpal-tunnel syndrome. Suffice to say the Republican Party has trashed political norms, broken promises, lied, cheated and stolen to get control of the judicial branch of government. They have turned the federal courts into an outpost of their party, and like their party, they want it all white, or nearly so. Eighty-five percent of Trump's appointments have been white.  

We're at a point in our political history as a nation where the only outrage left to commit in pursuit of winning at all costs by the Republican Party is murder. With Trump's outright worship of Putin visible on a daily basis, and his celebration of violence against protesters and journalists at his rallies, we don't have long to wait.

All you have to do is recall any individual 60 seconds of the hearing to confirm their last nominee for the Supreme Court, Squi's best friend Brett Kavanaugh, to know that the Republican Party has engaged in a scorched-earth strategy when it comes to the federal judiciary. 

It's time for Democrats to grab a proverbial can of gasoline and a pack of matches. McConnell and Trump want to pack the courts with obedient little Republican replicants? OK, let's put them to work. The Constitution won't allow the Congress to cut the pay of judges, but a Democratic House and Senate and a Democrat in the White House can reduce the pay of everyone else on the federal payroll in a courthouse. Most federal district court judges have one or two clerks. How about this: How about zero money for zero clerks? Let Trump's 300 judges do some work for a change. Same thing for the Supreme Court. Each justice currently has four clerks. How does providing pay for one clerk sound? And how about that Supreme Court gym? Close it. Write some rules constraining the justices' ability to accept gifts like invitations to private golf clubs and lunches at country clubs, invitations to give speeches or to accept rides on private jets. Supreme Court justices make $255,300 a year, but they live the lifestyles of corporate CEOs who make millions. Make them live within their means. 

But just because we're nice, let's give them less work to do. Article III, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, enumerating the powers of the judiciary, contains this little gem: "In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make." That gives the Congress the power to limit which laws are subject to judicial review, and "under such regulations," how they are reviewed. I personally see a lot of opportunity for congressional meddling in the powers of the judiciary — as in, stripping away its powers.

Here's the fallacy of the Republican Party's strategy of converting the courts into a political battleground. The legitimacy of the Supreme Court and every other court depends on its decisions being respected by the Congress, the president and the people. Let's try withholding our respect for a change.

By Lucian K. Truscott IV

Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better. You can read his daily columns at and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.

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