Last week I wrote that the Democrats were saying that the United States Supreme Court was “illegitimate” because its major decisions on abortion, race-based college admission policies, and student debt forgiveness were allegedly unpopular with the American people, and that court packing (increasing the number of seats on the Supreme Court), term limits for justices, and the impeachment of certain justices were necessary to “reform” the Supreme Court and presumably make it more responsive to public opinion. But this raises the question of why focus on Court “reform” to produce “more popular” decisions? Why not work directly through the political process to pass more effective legislation and perhaps even constitutional amendments to achieve the policies Democrats want? After all, if their ideas are so popular with the American people, won’t the Democrats be able to succeed by harnessing the people’s support? Maybe the Democrats’ stands on these issues aren’t so popular after all.
Consider abortion. There’s no doubt that the Dobbs decision overturning Roe V. Wade was unpopular with the American people. Nor is there any doubt that the Democrats have successfully exploited the issue of abortion to their advantage. NBC News reports that 69% of the American people support legalized abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy. Moreover, Republicans have handled the abortion issue with gross incompetence. Many Republicans have alienated the general public by refusing to consider legalized abortion even for humane and rational reasons—the preservation of a woman’s life, in cases of rape or incest, or when it is likely that the unborn baby will be stillborn or possess birth defects preventing life outside the womb, such as brainlessness or the development of organs outside the body. And the public has rejected Republican efforts to use elections to remove abortion rights provisions from state constitutions even in ruby-red states such as Kansas and Kentucky since Republicans have failed to say what provisions they would substitute for provisions they would delete. After all, you can’t replace something with nothing.
But there may be limits to how far Democrats can go to restore abortion rights through legislation or the ballot box. The same NBC News Poll saying most Americans support legalized abortion during the first trimester also reports that only 37% support abortion during the second trimester and that support drops even further, to 22%, during the third trimester. So maybe Democratic support for abortion is not so popular after all.
Likewise, Democratic support for race-based affirmative action may not be as popular with the American people as the Democrats would like to believe. The Pew Research Center reports that 47% Blacks support race-based college admission programs while only 29% of Blacks disapprove. But Hispanics are split, with 39% supporting and 39% opposing such policies. Moreover, 57% of Whites oppose such policies (while 29% support) and 52% of Asian Americans oppose and 37% support such policies. Overall, 50% of Americans oppose race-based college admission policies and only 33% support them. So Democrats may believe, contrary to public proclamations, that their stance on this issue is likewise not so popular.
It’s only to be expected that 83% of student loan borrowers support President Biden’s attempts to enact debt forgiveness, according to a USA Today poll. In fact, overall, 47% of Americans support debt forgiveness while only 41% oppose it. Only 35% supported the Supreme Court’s ruling that Biden’s plan was unconstitutional.
But as Reason, a libertarian magazine, explains, support for debt forgiveness begins to fall when those polled are explained the consequences, such as the addition of over $400 billion dollars to the national debt, and the increased cost of a college education since there’ll be less incentive to hold costs down. Moreover, the Democrats have yet to develop a popular answer to the question of whether debt forgiveness is fair to those who’ve already repaid their student loans, or those who never borrowed money for higher education in the first place. When Senator Elizabeth Warren, an ardent debt forgiveness advocate, was asked about this while running for president in 2016, she simply walked away from the man who brought this up. Besides, since on average, those with college degrees will earn, over their lifetimes, about a million more dollars than those without college degrees, isn’t it possible for them to find the money with which to repay the debts they voluntarily took out? The Democrats are always charging the Republicans with favoring programs that benefit the rich at the expense of the poor. But debt forgiveness will also benefit those with more earning potential at the expense of those with less. Perhaps the Democrats realize that the more the public is asked to think about debt forgiveness, the less the public will like it.
In essence, therefore, the programs the Democrats claim are popular—abortion rights, race-based affirmative action in college admissions, and student debt forgiveness—may not be as popular with the American people as the Democrats claim. Perhaps that explains why the Democrats want to “reform” the Supreme Court to make it somehow more responsive to their ideas, rather than submit their ideas to the public for approval. After all, none of the “reforms” advocated by the Democrats involve the actual election of Supreme Court Justices. So it doesn’t seem too likely that the Democrats will really want to “bring it on” after all.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton from 1987 until 2023. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.