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Expanding the Supreme Court Has Support Because the Court Has a Credibility Problem

·2 min read
Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images
Photo credit: Drew Angerer - Getty Images

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, current holder of the land-speed record for judicial confirmations, began this week by pleading a not-convincing case that the Supreme Court is populated by something other than “partisan hacks.” If the latest poll from the folks at Quinnipiac is accurate, America is decidedly unconvinced.

Americans give the Supreme Court a negative job approval rating, as 37 percent approve of the way it is handling its job and 49 percent disapprove, with 14 percent not offering an opinion. Among registered voters, the Supreme Court receives a negative 37 - 50 percent job approval rating, with 13 percent not offering an opinion. This is the worst job approval since Quinnipiac University began asking the question in 2004, and a steep drop from July 2020, when registered voters approved 52 - 37 percent.

Roughly one-third (34 percent) of Americans think the Supreme Court is too conservative, roughly one- third (34 percent) think the Supreme Court is about right, 19 percent say they think the Supreme Court is too liberal, and 13 percent did not offer an opinion.

Frankly, I wasn’t aware that anyone even polled on the Supreme Court’s approval ratings. I don’t see a lot of point to it. The Congress regularly polls at the rate of cholera and people keep re-electing their senators and their members of the House anyway. By contrast, the justices have lifetime appointments and, as we learned to our horror during the previous administration*, even the nomination process is insulated from democratic accountability as long as the people pushing the nominees are brazen enough not to care.

Nevertheless, this awful number does open the possibility that increasing the size of the Court, an idea with a considerable number of adherents, is not necessarily a political deadweight. If it is sold well, it might find some favor generally. Not that it ever would pass the Senate and actually happen, particularly as the Senate is presently constituted, you understand. But since we’re all essentially playing an elaborate RPG called “Representative Democracy,” it’s worthwhile to talk about anyway. And regardless of what may or may not happen, the Court has a credibility problem in the real world that isn’t going away.

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