Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Elizabeth Warren, and other progressives are pushing a common, poll-tested refrain: the Supreme Court faces a 'legitimacy crisis'

Abortion protest Supreme Court
Abortion rights activists participate in a Bans Off Our Bodies rally at the U.S. Supreme Court on May 14, 2022.Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
  • The message that the Supreme Court faces a "legitimacy crisis" is catching on with progressives and others.

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others are condemning decisions they say are partisan.

  • A recent survey found the message describes the feelings of half of voters on the Supreme Court "very well."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and dozens of other progressive leaders, candidates and groups are hammering a common, poll-tested refrain on the Supreme Court, arguing that it increasingly faces a "legitimacy crisis" as justices' decisions upend abortion rights, the EPA's ability to fight climate change, and expand gun rights.

"Our planet is on fire, and this extremist Supreme Court has destroyed the federal government's ability to fight back," tweeted Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, following Thursday's blow to regulating greenhouse gas emissions. "This radical Supreme Court is increasingly facing a legitimacy crisis, and we can't let them have the last word."

After the Court overturned the landmark abortion-rights case, Roe v. Wade, New York Democrat Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that two justices stand "very credibly accused of sexual assault," an apparent reference to assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh and harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas, "and that's the tip of the iceberg."

She slammed Thomas's wife Ginni for participating in former President Donald Trump's "Stop the Steal" rally on January 6 and for Thomas siding with Trump in his bid to keep some presidential documents from the House committee investigating the Capitol riot. "This is a crisis of legitimacy and President Biden must address that," Ocasio-Cortez said on Meet the Press.

Progressives have been seeking an expansion of the conservative-dominated Court along with ethics and anti-corruption reforms. They say the Court is unaccountable because its members are unelected, and that five justices were nominated by Republican presidents who lost the popular vote. They say one seat was "stolen" because Senate Republicans denied a hearing for Obama nominee, Merrick Garland, now the US Attorney General.

Along with Warren, other Senate Democrats pushing the illegitimacy message include Chris Van Hollen, Brian Schatz, Sheldon Whitehouse, Alex Padilla and Ed Markey. House members, along with Ocasio-Cortez, include Hakeem Jeffries, Jamie Raskin, Jerry Nadler, Pramila Jayapal, Katie Porter, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Andy Levin, Rashida Tlaib, and Bonnie Watson Coleman.

"Its legitimacy gone, the Court should take up residence with the RNC, which defines its agenda," tweeted Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland.

The message is being encouraged by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and other left-leaning groups who say it polls well nationally and in battleground states. A survey in June by Hart Research for the progressive group Demand Justice in collaboration with PCCC found the increasing "legitimacy crisis" message describes the feelings of 51% of voters in all states and 49% of battleground state voters "very well."

The results are consistent with a June Gallup poll, they note, which shows only 25% of Americans have confidence in the Court, down from 36% in 2021.

"We believe that any critiques of individual Court decisions should also call out this politicized Court itself, and we wanted to ask you to amplify this message in the days ahead," PCCC Co-Founder Adam Green wrote in June 29 message to lawmakers, shared with Insider.

The email was signed by PCCC, March For Our Lives, Evergreen, Ultraviolet, Demand Justice, and the American Constitution Society.

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