United States: Supreme Court’s attempted coup

July 5, 2022
Supreme Court
The new Supreme Court majority are partisans doing the hard rights’ bidding. Image: Jonas Ekströmer (NTB CC BY-NC 4.0)

Congress representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez warned that the United States is “witnessing a judicial coup in process” and is in the midst of a “Constitutional crisis”, after the Supreme Court announced on June 30 that it will take up a case in its September term that could upend the country’s electoral laws.

“If the President and Congress do not restrain the Court now, the Court is signaling they will come for the Presidential election next,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

“All our leaders — regardless of party — must recognize this Constitutional crisis for what it is.”

The Supreme Court will hear a case out of North Carolina challenging the state Supreme Court’s ability to strike down new congressional and legislative electoral district boundary maps adopted by the state legislature, for being unfairly gerrymandered in favour of Republicans.

The petitioner, North Carolina speaker Tim Moore, is asking the court to weigh in on not just the maps, but to adopt a once-fringe legal theory known as the “independent state legislature doctrine”, which would monumentally reshape electoral laws and make it much harder for courts to strike down electoral maps or provide judicial review on electoral laws.

The theory, which didn't enter the mainstream until 2020, claims that Article I Section 4 of the constitution only gives state legislatures and no other authorities, like courts or executive officers, authority over redistricting and election laws.

It has been one of the main arguments used by former President Donald Trump and his supporters to call for the overturning of the 2020 presidential election.

In presidential elections, the president is not elected by popular vote, but by electors from each state (who make up the Electoral College). The constitution says the state legislatures elect the electors, but it has long been established by the state legislatures that the results of the popular vote in each state determines the makeup of electors.

Not even Republicans dare to change that.

If the Supreme Court adopts the independent state legislature theory, it has far-reaching implications beyond redistricting, including for the 2024 election.

Illinois Republican Congress representative Adam Kinzinger, a member of the January 6 Committee investigating the Republicans’ attempt to prevent certification of the 2020 presidential election, tweeted after the Supreme Court’s announcement: “After the attempted coup, this cannot happen.”

The decision to take the North Carolina case shows that the six ultra-right-wing justices intend to restructure the constitution and its interpretation of a democratic republic. The people who stand to be disenfranchised as a result are Black and Brown people and low-income workers.

The far-right’s anti-democratic agenda has been well known since the 1970s, after the victories of the civil rights movement. Most importantly, it took the court nearly 50 years to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act in 2013. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that decision.

The 1970s and 80s also saw more expansion of democratic rights for people of colour, LGBTIQ people and people living with disability. The far-right Republicans want this expansion of democratic rights reversed too.

The new Supreme Court majority are partisans doing the hard rights’ bidding.

The full implications of the overthrow of Roe v Wade and the undermining of the Environmental Protection Agency are just beginning to be understood.

It is a de facto coup by the Supreme Court, against the majority of the people on what are considered fundamental democratic and human rights.

The court majority openly states that it does not care what the people want. It intends to impose an extreme right-wing agenda, which is already happening in Republican states, on the entire country.

Popular resistance is the only tactic to let the ruling class know that the fight is just beginning and will not wait until the high court and other institutions reverse course.

You need Green Left, and we need you!

Green Left is funded by contributions from readers and supporters. Help us reach our funding target.

Make a One-off Donation or choose from one of our Monthly Donation options.

Become a supporter to get the digital edition for $5 per month or the print edition for $10 per month. One-time payment options are available.

You can also call 1800 634 206 to make a donation or to become a supporter. Thank you.