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Courting Danger

Ron DeSantis Is Plotting a 7–2 Supreme Court

And it’s entirely possible if he becomes president.

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images
DeSantis at a GOP reception in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on May 13

Ron DeSantis, whose attempts to ride his cultural civil war to the White House I wrote about Monday, raised the cultural stakes yet again in anticipation of the official announcement of his presidential candidacy. During an address on Monday to a group of religious broadcasters, DeSantis said he’d “fortify” the Supreme Court during a potential two terms in office by creating a 7–2 conservative majority that would last for generations.

“I think if you look over, you know, the next two presidential terms, there is a good chance that you could be called upon to seek replacements for Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito,” DeSantis said. “And the issue with that is you can’t really do better than those two. They are the gold standard for jurisprudence.”

There you have it. The two stone-cold reactionaries, who’d nullify the whole twentieth century if they could, are the gold standard to DeSantis. The prospect of one or two more justices on the high court in that mold is terrifying. Voting rights protections, gone. The right to same-sex marriage, gone. Union protections, gone. The ability of the executive branch to write and enforce regulations enabled by legislation, gone. The principle of one person, one vote, also likely gone at some point. That last one—an overturning of historic early 1960s decisions like Baker v. Carr and Sims v. Reynolds that finally, after decades of struggle, made the United States into a functioning democracy—would have enormous ramifications, allowing Congress and state legislatures to rig representation however they saw fit.

That is where we may be headed if DeSantis, or really any Republican, wins the White House next year.

That’s on top of what we already know is coming this term. Decisions are likely due before the end of June on these matters:

• whether state legislatures can set the rules for federal elections (the so-called “independent state legislature” theory). The oral arguments last December seemed to go fairly well. But that’s not always indicative of the outcome. In the worst-case scenario, the court could give state legislatures the sole power to decide on legislative maps and the rules governing elections, with the executive branch frozen out of the action and citizens unable to pursue remedies through the courts.

• yet another free speech case in which a petitioner claims that having to work with same-sex couples violates her constitutional rights. A state court in Colorado ordered the businesswoman, who creates websites, to “work with all people regardless of … sexual orientation.” A conservative majority deciding for the plaintiff here could lead to open discrimination by businesses against same-sex couples.

• whether colleges and universities can use race as one factor in determining college admissions. An adverse ruling here could mean the end of affirmative action in college admissions. We’ve already seen what happens here: When Michigan imposed such a ban, Black undergraduate enrollment in the state dropped from 7 percent to 4 percent.

At The New Republic, our coverage of the Supreme Court is a source of great pride. Our chief legal writer, Matt Ford, is keenly adept at understanding and describing both the legal and political fallout of court decisions. His cover story on the court last fall was as comprehensive and sharp an account as you’ll read anywhere of the steps by which Roberts lost control of the court. Regular contributor Simon Lazarus, a veteran lawyer in Washington, frequently exposes the fraudulence of the right’s constitutional interpretations and claims. Our cover package last June, “The End of Roe v. Wade,” put the anti-choice justices under the microscope. We’ve also covered, rigorously and consistently, how abortion rights played out in the midterms and the recent mifepristone battle.

But we need to do more. We desperately want to launch a Supreme Court Desk to investigate what the Supreme Court is doing, its behind-the-scenes maneuverings, and the far-reaching effects on American democracy.

This is where you come in. The new Supreme Court Desk will cost just $25,000 to launch, but we need to raise it quickly, as the Supreme Court’s important new decisions are being written as you read this. Twenty-five thousand dollars is a very achievable goal—but only if readers like you do your part.

If you think that Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Trump-appointed judges Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett are a danger to American life, please help us in this important campaign.