It shouldn’t be lost on the public that a growing number of members within the Democratic Party have been campaigning to undermine the rule of law and the judicial system for their political benefit. Furthermore, their political ends are divergent from the principles of a well-ordered liberal democracy. Their political messaging increasingly undermines the rule of law—that is, it undercuts the very principles behind the rule of law. There are three in particular that I find reprehensible.
Defund the police
In the Summer of 2020, the slogan “defund the police” became a rallying cry for progressive activists. On April 12, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, tweeted “No more policing, incarceration, and militarization. [Policing] can’t be reformed.”
This is just ridiculous on its face; but practically speaking, defunding police forces destabilizes society. Abolishing or defunding the police at a time when the crime is increasing at an alarming rate is absurd, a totally counterproductive policy. No one disagrees that police reforms are needed, but to advance that policing ought to be done away with altogether demonstrates Democrats are not serious about finding solutions. Hence, it is just heated rhetoric rooted in ignorance and disconnected from reality.
In the Autumn of 2020, progressives adopted an agenda that essentially called for “court-packing”. On April 15, congressional Democrats unveiled a proposal, The Judiciary Act of 2021, to expand the number of seats on the U.S. Supreme Court from nine to 13. The proposal was introduced by Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and is co-sponsored by the chair of the House Judiciary Committee Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Georgia, and Rep. Mondaire Jones, D-New York. It is clear Democrats and progressive activists take issue with the makeup of the Supreme Court, where a conservative political philosophy now has a 6-3 majority. The proposal is meant to give liberals the tiebreaking vote (hence the reason for four seats) and ensure the high court will strike down almost any legal challenge to the Biden administration’s legislative priorities, i.e., the removal of checks and balances.
Court-packing for political ends is the mark of totalitarian regimes. The claim that the proposal is to ‘unpack the court’ is ridiculous and defies logic. The number of Supreme Court seats before Trump was nine and the number after Trump is still nine. The fact that it is now a 6-3 conservative majority is irrelevant. This is just the consequence of a Republican being president at a time when three seats were vacant. If the pretense is because the court is skewed politically, then the issue is not with the number of seats but rather the process of how justices are appointed. Clearly, it is more indicative of a naked power grab and a nefarious attempt to dismantle checks and balances.
Rule by intimidation
The first two issues are hidden premises that can be found in the 2020 Democratic Party Platform as suggested by Democrats’ commitment to rooting out “structural and systemic racism in our criminal justice system and our society.”
Leading the charge for reform based on nebulous terms almost guarantees problems. The Democratic Party platform mentions ‘systematic racism’ five times, but it never once defines it. How do you address something if you don’t know what it is? It can’t be the case that systematic racism is so ingrained into society that we don’t know we are perpetuating it, and only those with ‘special eyes’ can see it—while the rest of us have to be educated on our chronic complacent ignorance on racism. This creates a kind of authority that requires someone to tell you what you need to know to fight systematic racism. Hence, we ‘need’ people like Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, to tell us what the ‘correct’ response to the Chauvin trial is because we are blind to the “systematic racism” that surrounds us. This is ludicrous, and precisely what the Democrats are advocating with this particular kind of rhetoric.
On April 19, Judge Peter A. Cahill said Waters’ remarks on the Derek Chauvin trial were “disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch.” Waters had made remarks during a rally at Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where she said that if Chauvin was not found guilty in George Floyd’s death, then protesters should “get more active” and “get more confrontational.” Cahill further stated, “I think if [politicians] want to give their opinions, they should do so in a respectful manner that is consistent with their oath to the Constitution, which reflects a respect for a coequal branch of government. The judge added, “[t]heir failure to do so, I think, is abhorrent.”
What is being advocated here by Waters is rule by intimidation. I believe the former first lady, Michelle Obama, offers a message for which Democrats that share Waters’ sentiment should take heed:
I have seen how leaders rule by intimidation…often do so because they have nothing else to offer. And I have seen how places that stifle the voices and dismiss the potential of their citizens are diminished—how they are less vital, less hopeful, less free.
Joshua Peters is a philosopher and social critic from Raleigh, NC. His academic background is in western philosophy, STEM, and financial analysis. Joshua studied at North Carolina State University (BS) and UNC Charlotte (MS). He is a graduate of the E.A. Morris Fellowship for Emerging Leaders.