How Court-Packing Went From Professor Belkin's Fringe Idea to Serious Democratic Proposal

Friday, March 22, 2019

MOTHER JONES -- “I’m surprised the candidates have come to understand the case so quickly,” says Belkin, a political science professor at San Francisco State University. “I thought it would take a few more months to persuade them.”

This isn’t Belkin’s first longshot crusade. For 10 years, he advocated for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, founding a nonprofit to conduct research and craft messaging to persuade lawmakers, the public, and even the generals that allowing gay troops to serve openly would not harm military readiness. For Pack the Courts, Belkin hired Sean McElwee, a 26-year-old social media whiz who helped popularized the idea of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to do polling and research. Belkin recognized that the best way to introduce bold reform is in a crowded Democratic primary, with candidates eager to attract media attention and win over the party’s liberal base.

“The emergencies we are facing are so extreme that if you are going to run for president, it’s not enough to have policy ideas,” he says. “You have to explain how you are going to pass those ideas and then how you are going to protect those ideas from the courts.”