A number of progressives want to expand the Supreme Court under a Democratic Congress and Democratic President.

What's the working hypothesis of the people who want to pack the court,for what happens in the future? Have they professed any such views, or had to respond to any such line of questioning from journalists?

  • Will an opposing party (e.g. Republicans) never again control Congress and the Presidency like in 2017-2018?

  • Will a opposing party control government but refrain from packing the Supreme Court again?

  • Will an opposing party indeed pack the Supreme Court in the future, but it's still worth taking the advantage now?

  • Something else?

What is the plan?

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    The 2022 election involves 34 regularly scheduled Senatorial seats, of which 12 are currently held by Democrats and 22 are held by Republicans. Those include several Democratic Senators in solidly blue states, several Republican Senators in solidly red states -- and mostly Republican Senators in swing states. 2022 does not look good for the Republicans. 2024 and beyond are far into the future, with the much maligned Boomers four years closer to the grave. Oct 28, 2020 at 19:09
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    @DavidHammen, I recall seeing similar sentiments in 2008. Then just eight years later, it completely flipped. Oct 28, 2020 at 20:14
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    "The people who want" makes this unaswerable. This isn't an organised group. There is no consistent position. So no answer can say what the "working hypothesis" is There might be many, or there might be none. I vtc.
    – James K
    Oct 29, 2020 at 8:19
  • @JamesK, while it is true that multiple people may think multiple things, this is no less answerable than the many similar questions about stances/motivations of broad groups. Oct 29, 2020 at 14:05
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    @RickSmith protesting the future appointment of a Supreme Court justice, possibly for anticipated decisions, is no more speculative than a proposal to expand the Supreme Court. As in that case, I am not requesting for speculative answers, rather factual answers about anticipations held by politicians and political activists. Oct 29, 2020 at 16:31

1 Answer 1


I don't believe there is an authoritative statement from any legislators who support court expansion at this point on the issue of retaliation. But articles that cover this area usually address this point.

During the Democratic primaries Pete Buttigieg put forth a proposal for expanding the court that would preempt retaliation by explicitly balancing the court in its political leaning. After enforcing a "fair" court the hope would be further expansion by Republicans would be seen as illegitimate.

Buttigieg proposed expanding the high court to 15, but not simply by allowing the sitting president to amplify his or her ideology on the bench. His plan would have five justices preferred by Democrats and five by Republicans. Those 10 justices then would select their other five colleagues.

In the Atlantic, Aaron Belkin, a political-science professor at San Francisco State University and the executive director of the think tank the Palm Center asserted that it didn't matter if Republicans eventually retaliated because the only other option was to retain a permanent conservatives majority.

This is perhaps the No.1 concern that’s been voiced, but it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. A couple problems with this: The first thing is that the Court has already been stolen. If your wallet is stolen, you don’t forgo efforts to recover it just because it might be stolen again. It would probably take a generation—25 or 30 years—for the Democrats to get the majority on the Supreme Court back. If the Republicans steal the court, then the Democrats un-steal it. And if the Republicans steal it again, then the Democrats un-steal it again. It’s much better to have that zigzag than to just have unilateral surrender.

In New Republic; David Faris an associate professor of political science at Roosevelt University also used a similar argument.

So what? At least that would produce courts that are more responsive to public opinion rather than serving as the last redoubt for a long-expired political majority.

He also addressed some of the other points you raise about resolving the lean of the senate toward smaller states, where the national majority party end up as the minority in the Senate.

And if Democrats use their newfound power to address other features of the electoral system that give Republicans an asymmetrical advantage in national elections—by enacting statehood to D.C. and Puerto Rico, passing a new voting rights act, and implementing national ranked-choice voting, for instance—it could be many years before the GOP controls Congress and the presidency at the same time, for the very simple reason that Republicans are likely to continue to be unpopular and will rarely win at all in a reformed electoral system.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – CDJB
    Oct 28, 2020 at 21:27
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    Good selection of view, I think this is the best answer that could reasonable be given to a hard question to answer. Though as an aside no matter what the last quote says there will never be national ranked-choice voting. Such a policy would make it significantly harder for existing congress representatives to win re-election (regardless of political party) and as such the ones that get to decide rather a law is written have a noticeable incentive not to write such a law.
    – dsollen
    Oct 30, 2020 at 16:41
  • @dsollen the same could have been said about almost any voting reform; votes for women, those without property, emancipation...
    – Jontia
    Oct 30, 2020 at 16:43
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    @Jontia Generally with the ones you listed one political party had a clear advantage, even if the specific members of congress may not be reelected member of their party had an increased chance. For ranked-choice it would not only hurt the specific people in office, it would hurt both political parties. As such there will never be a political party campaigning it the way the ones you listed were campaigned for by a party. Don't get me wrong I'd love ranked-choice, but I just don't see a path forward for it actually happening.
    – dsollen
    Oct 30, 2020 at 17:04

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