Useful Idiots: Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Supreme Court With Guest Samuel Moyn

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In this week’s quarantine episode of our Useful Idiots podcast, hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper are joined by Yale law and history professor Samuel Moyn to discuss everything Supreme Court.

Our hosts discuss a story from Syria that has not gotten much media attention in the United States, regarding dust-ups between American and Russian troops. “Any kind of skirmish with what was then the Soviet Union would have been a huge deal [40 years ago], but now people are not particularly concerned about military conflict with a nuclear power,” says Matt.

Matt also laments Biden’s insistence on calling out Trump for not taking more military action in Syria. “That was gross, seeing Biden egging Trump on,” says Matt.

Matt and Katie break down some potential implications from the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Nobody wants to say this, but she should have retired in 2013,” says Katie.

The guest this week is Yale Law Professor Samuel Moyn, who joins the show to give some insight and context on what can happen with the Supreme Court, including potential reforms to the judicial branch.

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Moyn explains that without the filibuster option, there’s not much that Democrats can do to stall a Trump nomination. “There are lesser procedural hi-jinx,” says Moyn. “McConnell can then call for what’s called a ‘cloture vote,’ which is also majority rule, and they can move to a final vote on this kind of at the time of his choosing, as soon as the process reaches that point.”

Moyn argues that the Supreme Court has too much power, making the legislative branch less capable of enacting laws that the majority of Americans want. “No other democracy gives judges the amount of power that our’s took at various moments,” says Moyn. “It’s about whether it should exercise the power of a super-legislature to rewrite the law in the name of an interpretation of the Constitution, as if the people don’t have a view about the Constitution, as if the legislature when it writes the laws isn’t assuming that they’re in conformity with our basic values.”

“If you win political victory, and you have a majority coalition you built to dominate the political branches for long enough, the judiciary will follow,” says Moyn, who also discusses the potential pitfalls of the “court-packing” strategy. “It is a potentially infinite loop… Why not just play the game amongst our fellow citizens of convincing them that our policies are better, and then institutionalizing them?”

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