The Constitution gives our elected officials the power to restrain a lawless Supreme Court, protect citizens from the “sinister legislation” of the states, punish those states for depriving their residents of the right to vote and expel insurrectionists from Congress.
They are drastic measures that would break the norms of American politics. They might even spark a constitutional crisis over the power and authority of Congress.
But let’s not be naïve. The norms of American politics were shattered when Donald Trump organized a conspiracy to subvert the presidential election. They were shattered again when he sent an armed mob of supporters to attack the Capitol and stop Congress from certifying the votes of the Electoral College. And they were shattered one more time in the early hours of the next day, when, even after all that, 147 of his congressional allies voted to overturn election results.
As for the constitutional crisis, it is arguably already here. Both the insurrection and the partisan lawmaking of the Supreme Court have thrown those counter-majoritarian features of the American system into sharp relief. They’ve raised hard questions about the strength and legitimacy of institutions that allow minority rule — and allow it to endure. It is a crisis when the fundamental rights of hundreds of millions of Americans are functionally overturned by an unelected tribunal whose pivotal members owe their seats to a president who won office through the mechanism of the Electoral College, having lost the majority of voters in both of his election campaigns. [Continue reading…]