By Robert Reich
I heard a commentator allude to “Mitch McConnell and other conservative senators.” The other day, a news report described the upcoming Alaska Republican primary as pitting Trump’s “conservative wing against Murkowski’s more moderate base.” I keep seeing references to the “conservative majority” on the Supreme Court.
Can we get real? There is nothing conservative about these so-called “conservatives.” They don’t want to preserve or protect our governing institutions — the core idea of conservatism extending from Edmund Burke to William F. Buckley and Barry Goldwater. They are radicals, intent on wrecking these institutions to impose their ideology on everyone else.
The Supreme Court’s Republican appointees have all but obliterated stare decisis — the conservative principle that the Court must follow its precedents and not change or reverse them unless clearly necessary, and with near unanimity. Recent decisions reversing Roe v. Wade, elevating religious expression over the Constitution’s bar on established religion, questioning Congress’s ability to delegate rule making to the executive branch, and barring states from regulating handguns, all call into question the legitimacy of the Supreme Court as an institution.
Meanwhile, Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell, are abusing the filibuster and undermining the legitimacy of the Senate.
Throughout much of the 20th century, filibusters remained rare. But after Barack Obama moved into the Oval Office in 2009, McConnell and his Republican senate minority blocked virtually every significant piece of legislation. Between 2010 and 2020, there were as many cloture motions as during the entire 60-year period from 1947 to 2006. Now McConnell and his Republicans are stopping almost everything in its tracks. Just 41 Senate Republicans, representing only 21 percent of the country, are blocking laws supported by the vast majority of Americans.
At the same time, Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress and in the states have upended the centerpiece of American democracy, the peaceful transition of power, and undermined the legitimacy of our elections.
They continue to assert without any basis in fact that the 2020 election was stolen. Trump encouraged an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and threatened the life of the Vice President. Republican state legislatures are enacting legislation to suppress votes and take over election machinery.
Make no mistake: Republican appointees to the Supreme Court, most Republicans in Congress, and Trump Republican lawmakers across America are not conservative. They are radicals. They have embarked on a radical agenda of repudiating our governing institutions and taking over American democracy.
It is time to stop using the term “conservative” to describe them and their agenda.
And it is time it to fight back: Enlarge the size of the Supreme Court and limit the terms of justices. Abolish the filibuster and then pass laws most Americans want — protecting voting rights and reproductive rights, and controlling guns. Criminally prosecute Trump and his insurgents.
These are conservative measures. They are necessary to conserve and protect our governing institutions from the radicals now bent on destroying them.