A Coup Against the Supreme Court

People don’t usually remember it this way, but on Dec. 13, 2000, Vice President Al Gore gave one of the most important speeches in American history. Mr. Gore had contested the initial results of the Florida vote count and prevailed in the Florida state courts, but the Supreme Court had voted, 5-to-4, the day before to end the recount and effectively hand the presidency to George W. Bush.

“Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken,” Mr. Gore said. “Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it.” The frenzied battle over a few hundred votes had spawned intense anger across the country — but it had been resolved “as it must be resolved, through the honored institutions of our democracy.”

Mr. Gore’s concession that night still stands as the most powerful reaffirmation in modern times of the Supreme Court’s unique and fragile role in the American system of government

.. Millions of people were furious at the justices’ decision in Bush v. Gore — many believed it was the result not of legal reasoning but of rank partisanship — and yet virtually everyone followed Mr. Gore’s selfless lead, accepted the court as the final arbiter of the dispute, and moved on. There were no riots in the streets, no attempted coups, no “Second Amendment solutions.” There was, instead, a peaceful transfer of power: the hallmark of a civil society operating under the rule of law.

.. Even Senator John McCain, who once joined with Democrats in an effort to depoliticize the judicial nomination process, recently told a radio show, “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up.”

.. Step back for a moment and consider the radical absurdity of this position. Senate Republicans first justified their refusal to hold hearings or a vote on Mr. Obama’s nominee before the presidential election because “the people’s voice” needed to be heard. That was always a transparent lie. Now, apparently believing their candidate, Donald Trump, will lose, they are acting as though the Supreme Court is the property of the Republican Party.

.. it takes open aim at the court’s legitimacy as the sole unelected branch of government. Because the court “has no influence over either the sword or the purse,” as Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, its legitimacy and authority depend entirely on the shared public acceptance of its verdicts.

.. the court has had a majority of Republican-appointed justices for nearly half a century

.. Republicans want to maintain that majority, even if that means tossing out all political norms