If the Senate confirms Trump’s 48-year-old nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court would lurch right for the foreseeable future — a harrowing possibility for those who oppose her views, Oliver said, given that key cases upholding the Affordable Care Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program have been decided by a single vote. After Ginsburg’s death, Democrats were quick to recall Republican leadership’s insistence in March 2016, when President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Scalia, that a Supreme Court vacancy shouldn’t be filled within months of a presidential election.
Now, Republicans including Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), “seem to rationalize their party’s blatant hypocrisy by saying that should they confirm Trump’s nominee, they’ll simply be bringing the court closer to the will of the country,” Oliver continued. He pointed out the inaccuracy of Romney saying the nation leans “center-right” by referencing a Gallup poll from January stating that more Americans lean Democrat than Republican, and a Kaiser Family Foundation poll from May that found a majority of the public supports Medicare-for-all.
Finally, according to a recent CNN-SSRS poll, 59 percent of the American public also believes the winner of the upcoming presidential election should be the one to nominate Ginsburg’s successor. “So our country isn’t so much center-right,” Oliver concluded, “as Mitt Romney is center-wrong.”
Oliver lay some blame for this “apocalyptic hellscape” at the feet of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who opposed Garland but also led a “deliberate effort to block and delay Obama’s nominees” to lower courts, The Washington Post’s Ashley Parker reported earlier this month. This led Trump to brag to journalist Bob Woodward that he and McConnell had “broken every record” on appointing judges.
But “it is a mistake to focus just on the people involved here, because there’s a whole system underneath them that has enabled them to do what they have done,” Oliver said. “And that brings us to the second major factor that got us to where we are now: the deeply undemocratic nature of America’s institutions.”
Not only are Black and Hispanic Americans drastically underrepresented in Congress, Oliver argued, but the nearly 4 million Americans who live in Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico lack any representation at all. In a similar vein, the electoral college’s “winner-take-all approach” in most states can distort the very will of the nation that Romney professed to serve, given that the system “grants disproportionate power to less populous states, which tend to be rural and more conservative,” the host said.
“So the fact is, when Barrett is confirmed, a president who lost the popular vote will have picked a quarter of the federal judiciary and a third of the Supreme Court, and his choices will have been rubber-stamped by a Senate Republican majority representing 15 million fewer people than the Democratic minority,” Oliver explained. “And if that sounds absurd to you, it’s ’cause it clearly is.”
While he admitted that Democrats would be fighting an uphill battle even if Trump loses the election, Oliver noted that they could still work to implement structural changes. Some liberals have floated abolishing the filibuster and adding seats to the Supreme Court, he said, “though there are real concerns about what the eventual blowback to that would be.” He advocated for granting D.C. and Puerto Rico statehood and getting rid of the electoral college, “which might sound radical, but it really isn’t.”
A late 1960s bipartisan effort to get rid of the electoral college — even backed by President Nixon — failed when the amendment was filibustered and killed in Senate. To this day, according to a Gallup poll from last week, 61 percent of Americans still believe we should abolish it.
“The unavoidable truth here is that the system is already rigged,” Oliver said. “And it’s rigged in a way that has allowed a party without popular support to drastically reshape an entire branch of government for the foreseeable future by appealing almost exclusively to White voters in some of the least populous regions of the country. … We’re at the end of a generational battle, and the heartbreaking thing is, we lost.”