A big question ...
All kinds of questions arise during a presidential campaign — some more important than others, and some surely politically motivated to corner a candidate. But one asked of Democratic candidate Joe Biden — concerning the future of the U.S. Supreme Court — seems relevant and simple.
However, Biden has dodged the question about whether the high court should be expanded, a notion referred to as “court packing.” He said answering the question would play into President Trump’s hands politically. He may be right, that is if the answer is that he supports expanding the court from nine justices to a larger number. If he does, that’s a troubling notion, and even left-leaning media have questioned his refusal to answer.
Court packing has a negative connotation, and it should. Surely any president who supports a measure to expand the supreme court would do so because the court’s contemporary makeup doesn’t suit him or her. But that smacks of an authoritarian impulse, for which many Americans still maintain a healthy distrust. Franklin D. Roosevelt tried it in 1937, but his effort was defeated.
Because supreme court justices are picked by the elected president and confirmed by the Senate, they are a clear result of democratic elections. But as the words imply, court packing seems like a most undemocratic impulse.