Home Civil Liberty Supreme Courts Exist To Protect Us From Democracy

Supreme Courts Exist To Protect Us From Democracy



Something of a pity that The Guardian doesn’t quite get it. Supreme Courts – as with rights and constitutions – exist to protect us from democracy. This isn’t a side effect, is not some strange or unwanted perversion, this is the point.

So, of course, an editor should have returned this manuscript with a scribble of “Idiot!” in the margin.

The US supreme court has become a threat to democracy. Here’s how we fix it
Sabeel Rahman

Yes, that’s what a supreme court is for.

Second, courts today are a threat to democracy because of how they have been weaponized to skew political power and insulate extreme conservative coalitions from democratic accountability.

Democracy may be against extreme conservative coalitions at present but it’s still true that such a court is there to preserve all of us.

To take an actual historical example, the Jim Crow laws were just fine by the majority of the electors in places where they applied. That’s democracy. Sure, it took rather too much time for the Supreme Court to disagree but that disagreement was, in the end, that democracy was subject to, limited by, something more important, rights.

Our history is full of moments where courts have been weaponized to resist democracy – and where court reform has been needed to usher in a more equitable and inclusive democracy.

Still missing that the courts are there to limit, not expand, democracy. Because it’s really rather easy to get the mob to vote for something. The Nazis did come to power through electoral politics. FDR was duly elected, his varied New Deal stuff all went through Congress in the prescribed fashion and yet those judges did indeed say, well, y’know, that’s against those rules that this document here says are more important than democracy alone.

Sabeel Rahman is associate professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and the president of Demos, a progressive thinktank

You really would think that someone doing that job would understand that the entire point of constitutions, constitutional courts, is to protect rights from democracy.



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in British English
expunct (ɪkˈspʌŋkt)
VERB (transitive)
1. to delete or erase; blot out; obliterate
2. to wipe out or destroy

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