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A Test of American Democracy

In attempts to undermine democracy, state lawmakers have set their sights on the courts.

May 19, 2017

Cross-posted from The American Prospect.

This week, after years of litigation, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a federal appeals court decision striking down North Carolina’s restrictive 2013 voting law. The lower court had ruled that parts of the law illegally “target[ed] African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

That outcome is a victory not only for North Carolina voters but also for our democracy. For the political process to function, state and federal lawmakers must respect baseline democratic norms—the laws and traditions that guard the integrity of our democracy against extreme political gamesmanship and threats to minority rights.

When state lawmakers cross those lines, as they did in North Carolina, it is up to the courts to protect core democratic values and the rule of law. But in North Carolina, and in other states around the country, lawmakers are again trying to manipulate the “rules of the game” to their own advantage, this time putting the state judiciary in their crosshairs.

These attacks on the courts magnify the heightened politicization of the federal bench. President Trump’s assault on the legitimacy of a “so-called judge,” his assertion that the courts would be to blame for a terrorist attack, and his call to break up the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals after it ruled against the administration, all contribute to a political environment where state and federal lawmakers may feel less constrained by the conventions that ensure the courts are an independent check on the political branches.

To read the full piece on The Prospect's website, click here