October Live Report

Corporate Rule News:

As if 2020 could not get any worse -- this week Democracy took a huge blow with the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrette to the Supreme Court.

With a 52 - 48 vote, GOP Senators that represent 11 million fewer Americans than their Democratic counterparts, gave the President that lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, his third Supreme Court Justice.

But even more disgusting are all the reasons why Trump and the GOP might’ve rushed the confirmation hearings --  they are trying to consolidate power of the 3 governmental branches- they have the white house, the senate, and now finally a majority uber conservative court. 

It's important to understand the significance of the Barrett confirmation. It's not only about going backwards on social issues that will surely harm people of color, women, LGTBQ folks, immigrants and others. It's also about protecting and expanding the POWER of political reactionaries and the 2 main groups that they serve: the superrich and corporations. 

Barrett now solidifies a conservative court that has ruled in favor of the rich and corporations in 4 major categories for the last 10+ years:

(1) voting suppression - (mail-in ballots rejected, baseless accusations of fraudulent voters, etc. closing polling places in minority communities (add link) Trump is already employing really out in the open tactics and will get worse:  He recently said: "[He] Don't Believe That's Our Laws," bind him to ‘Counting All the Votes in an Election’

(2) Opening the floodgates to more Money in Politics/Dark Money

(3) jury nullification/forced arbitration/prohibition of class action suits 

Because there is nothing more annoying for Big Corporate Powers than civil juries...they can always buy politicians and judges, but not juries!

(4) and Deregulating everything and anything, especially if it will help corporations make big profits!

The Confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett is the latest and most prized trophy for those behind-the-scenes forces responsible for pouring  OBSCENE amounts of DARK MONEY behind Barrett’s nomination, as well as Neil Gorsuch’s, and Brett Kavanaugh’s.

Under the Trump Administration, the Mitch McConnell-led Senate has produced few significant legislative accomplishments. Instead, it has prioritized packing the judiciary with far-right extremists, who then enjoy lifetime tenure as federal judges. 

Working hand-in-hand with the administration and anonymously-funded special interest groups, the Senate has confirmed 200 new life-tenured federal judges to aggressively remake the federal courts and rewrite the Constitution

Most of these judges were chosen not for their qualifications or experience—which are often lacking—but for their demonstrated allegiance to pro-corporate and socially conservative goals. 

These judges or should we call them ‘Politicians in robes’ have already begun rolling civil rights, consumer protections, and the rights of ordinary Americans, effectively putting a thumb on the scale in favor the political interests for the wealthy and their corporations. In the last 10 years the Supreme Court has

  • Reaffirmed that corporations should have the rights of persons, and that billionaires should be able to legally own politicians, and expanded the right of corporations to use the Constitution to trump local, state, and federal laws aimed at curbing their excess. 
  • They've gutted the rights of union workers, devastated environmental protections, ripped apart long standing civil rights and voting rights laws, and made it harder for the average person to keep financial institutions accountable for their ripoffs.
  • They’ve empowered CEOs and giant corporations, and reduced the power of voters and average citizens.
  • And now they’re preparing to hear cases where they could gut a women's right to choose over our own bodies, healthcare access, and even destroy long-established American institutions like Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance.

And it needs to be said that the Democratic Party leadership has let this happen, and in some cases even helped. Most of the Trump judicial nominees sailed by the Democrats with support. And even though there was much blustering when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, in the end the Democratic Party did absolutely nothing to halt the appointment of Coney Barrett, even though you KNOW if the tables had been turned Republicans would have pulled out all the stops to delay the process until after the election. But Democrats love to pay lip service to standing up and then stand aside as corporate interests dominate our government. 

So...did I say it is a thumb on the scale?-- It’s clearly more like they’re preparing to use that 6-3 Right-wing majority power like a sledgehammer! 

Just this past Monday -- the Supreme Court delivered a victory for the Republican Party by barring the crucial battleground state of Wisconsin from extending its Election Day deadline for the arrival of absentee ballots amid the pandemic, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh issuing an ominous concurring opinion that echoes Trump's false narrative on mail-in voting.

The 5-3 decision along party lines—with the court's five conservatives in the majority—blocked a request by Wisconsin Democrats and voting rights groups to revive a federal judge's ruling from last month that would have allowed mail-in ballots to be counted if postmarked by Election Day and received by November 9, a six-day extension of the current deadline of November 3.

At least 18 states and the District of Columbia count ballots that arrive after Election Day, this is not a big deal and It is genuinely alarming that the justices cast aspersions on late-arriving ballots.

And, in these states, there is no result to 'flip' because there is no result to overturn until all valid ballots are counted. As it should be!

AND I don’t know about you, but I remember George W. Bush's 2000 election legal team—which included [newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney] Barrett, Kavanaugh, and Roberts—they argued during that contested election that ballots arriving late and without postmarks, which were thought to benefit Bush, must be counted in Florida.

Whatever the reasons behind Kavanaugh's performance on Monday, he has given the nation another legitimate reason to fear that this election may end with a Bush v. Gore–like disaster for American democracy, but even worse than the original.

And to make things worse -- Just minutes after the Supreme Court issued its ruling Monday night, Trump falsely tweeted that there are "big problems and discrepancies with Mail In Ballots all over the USA."

What is truly worrisome is that with a captured judiciary, Trump and the Republican Party could yet again, steal the Presidency without fear of any real consequences. 

I’m sure you must be asking, how did we get here? or what can we do?

Well, first you need to step back in time. 

Republicans have spent 50 years planning to pack our judicial system with far-right activist judges and to influence it with a right-wing ideology. From the Powell memo of the 1970s to the Trump era, there has been a consistent, relentless, and well-funded effort. 

The project has created an entire apparatus of front groups focused on influencing the courts and controlling judicial selection. 

We have to step back and look at the pattern of decisions throughout Chief Justice Roberts’s tenure. It’s not just the worst, most notorious decisions; the current Supreme Court has run up a record of 80 decisions, all of which share these characteristics:

  • They were decided 5-4 (even though larger majorities protect the credibility and standing of the Court). 
  • They were decided 5-4 on a partisan basis with no Democratic appointee joining the bare majority (a divide that undermines long-term confidence in the Court as an institution, though the Roberts Five don’t seem to mind). 
  • They were civil cases in which big Republican donor interests were plainly implicated. 
  • And they were decided 80-0 in favor of the big Republican donor interests (a pattern lawyers could easily bring before a jury as evidence of bias in a discrimination case).

You need to “follow the money”-- The extent of the GOP’s dark money court-packing network is astounding. Hundreds of millions of dollars of corporate and special-interest money flows into efforts to get the desired rulings from the federal courts. 

This money flows into the group at the center of the judicial-selection effort, the Federalist Society. It funds the entity that runs political campaigns for nominees’ confirmation, the Judicial Crisis Network. It funds litigation groups, like the Pacific Legal Foundation, that bring strategically selected cases to the Supreme Court. It funds an array of coordinated “amicus curiae” groups, who file in flotillas before the Court. It funds political power-hitters like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And it funds ideological hothouses like GMU’s Mercatus Center where right-wing theories are incubated and propagated.

So, who is behind this effort: who are the big funders of the judge-pickers? Who is behind amicus briefs? Who funds the litigation groups, and the political campaigns for judicial nominees? Is it not likely the same big donors behind all of it? All signs indicate that yes, it is.

We have to look around, and consider why so much money is dedicated to pursuing this scheme, and why it mattered enough to the people behind it to invest decades of effort and buckets of money.

And we have to step back and understand, what is the goal? 

Packing courts with narrow-minded, activist judges who will distort our Constitution has a purpose. The purpose is that the judges will reliably vote in favor of the interests of the extremely wealthy; gut vital public-safety and environmental protections; shield predatory corporations from accountability; disable the civil jury; dismantle civil rights; erode the separation of church and state; eliminate reproductive rights; rig democratic institutions to favor the conservative elite’s interests; and impose regressive policies so deeply unpopular with the American people that even Republicans won’t vote for them in Congress. Americans are already seeing the devastating results of this transformation—and it’s only just gotten underway. 

Americans have increasingly come to understand the culture of corruption that is undermining our politics. Yet too few people realize that these same corrupting forces have already effectively captured our courts. 

We must work to change that. We need to try to shed light on the corruption and conflicts of interest now rampant around the Trump judiciary. 

We need to document the real-world impact of the courts’ increasingly activist decisions. And we need to support legislative reforms to clean up this mess. And, if Democrats seize the power it looks like they’re about to get in this election, we’re all going to have to push them very hard to reverse America’s current slide toward authoritarianism and billionaire rule.

And if they refuse (because let’s be honest, they have yet to put up a meaningful fight to all this) we have to replace them too.

Billionaires have put hundreds of millions of dollars into a multi-decade effort to capture the judiciary and even though they think they’ve accomplished their mission, we have to fight. Because at the end of the day, we outnumber them, and we have to act like it. 

Get ready for a really big fight.

In response to this power grab from the power-hungry elite, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had just three initial words to say: “Expand the Court.”

AOC’s sentiment expressed in a tweet quickly spread. "Republicans do this because they don't believe Dems have the stones to play hardball like they do," the New York Democrat added subsequently. "And for a long time they’ve been correct. But do not let them bully the public into thinking their bulldozing is normal but a response isn't. There is a legal process for expansion.

Shortly after AOC's tweet, fellow progressive Squad member Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) re-shared the message and added: 

"Remember that Republicans have lost 6 of the last 7 popular votes, but have appointed 6 of the last 9 justices. By expanding the court we fix this broken system and have the court better represent the values of the American people."

They are not alone -- Sen. Warren also expressed her support for the idea: Every option needs to be on the table. Every option to expand our democracy. Every option to ensure that all Americans have equal justice in our courts & representation in our institutions. Every option needs to be on the table, including some fundamental changes to our Constitution. It is time for big changes, because this situation of Republican steam rolling and Democrats giving lip service to fighting back is costing us everything that we believe in.

Even other less progressive Democratic members entertained the idea of expanding the court and went as far as warning Republicans that they won’t be able to call foul play in a hypothetical future where they do such thing.

So, yes, this is a possibility --perhaps our only one-- even if it might sound far fetched.

But the truth is: The Supreme Court Has Been Expanded Many Times Before. Congress decides how many people are on the Supreme Court, and has changed that number many times specifically because of political overreach by conservatives like John Adams and Andrew Johnson.

And to be honest, after seeing what can be accomplished when people come together -- I’m talking about Chile where an overwhelming majority (78%) voted this week in support of rewriting Chile's constitution, which dates to the military rule of Gen Augusto Pinochet) -- I remain a bit hopeful that we can collectively fix this crisis.

There are, in fact, many things we, Americans, can learn from Chile -- 

This victory in Chile did not come easily or swiftly.

The modern Chilean democracy movement was initially sparked by groups of students jumping subway turnstiles to protest a small hike in the fares about a year ago, but it grew into a nation-wide uprising of millions of Chileans who are threatening to bring down the current conservative and unpopular President Sebastián Piñera’s government. So, there might be hope for America too…