Da – Court Packing Notes

NC – Democracy Impact Scenario

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2NC – Democracy Impact Scenario

Court packing destroys democracy by weaponizing institutions.

Levitsky and Ziblatt ’17 [Steven and Daniel; December 7; Professors of Government at Harvard University; The New Republic, “How a Democracy Dies,” https://newrepublic.com/article/145916/democracy-dies-donald-trump-contempt-for-american-political-institutions; RP]
By and large, however, overt dictatorships have disappeared across much of the world. Violent seizures of power are rare. But there’s another way to break a democracy: not at the hands of generals, but of elected leaders who subvert the very process that brought them to power. In Venezuela, Hugo Chávez was freely elected president, but he used his soaring popularity (and the country’s vast oil wealth) to tilt the playing field against opponents, packing the courts, blacklisting critics, bullying independent media, and eventually eliminating presidential term limits so that he could remain in power indefinitely. In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán used his party’s parliamentary majority to pack the judiciary with loyalists and rewrite the constitutional and electoral rules to weaken opponents. Elected leaders have similarly subverted democratic institutions in Ecuador, Georgia, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Ukraine, and elsewhere. In these cases, there are no tanks in the streets. Constitutions and other nominally democratic institutions remain in place. People still vote. Elected autocrats maintain a veneer of democracy while eviscerating its substance. This is how most democracies die today: slowly, in barely visible steps.
How vulnerable is American democracy to such a fate? Extremist demagogues emerge from time to time in all societies, even in healthy democracies. An essential test of this kind of vulnerability isn’t whether such figures emerge but whether political leaders, and especially political parties, work to prevent them from gaining power. When established parties opportunistically invite extremists into their ranks, they imperil democracy.
Once a would-be authoritarian makes it to power, democracies face a second critical test: Will the autocratic leader subvert democratic institutions or be constrained by them? Institutions alone are not enough to rein in elected autocrats. Constitutions must be defended—by political parties and organized citizens, but also by democratic norms, or unwritten rules of toleration and restraint. Without robust norms, constitutional checks and balances do not serve as the bulwarks of democracy we imagine them to be. Instead, institutions become political weapons, wielded forcefully by those who control them against those who do not. This is how elected autocrats subvert democracy—packing and “weaponizing the courts and other neutral agencies, buying off the media and the private sector (or bullying them into silence), and rewriting the rules of politics to permanently disadvantage their rivals. The tragic paradox of the electoral route to authoritarianism is that democracy’s enemies use the very institutions of democracy—gradually, subtly, and even legally—to kill it.
The United States failed the first test in November 2016, when it elected a president with no real allegiance to democratic norms. Donald Trump’s surprise victory was made possible not only by public disaffection but also by the Republican Party’s failure to keep an extremist demagogue from gaining the nomination.
How serious a threat does this now represent? Many observers take comfort in the U.S. Constitution, which was designed precisely to thwart and contain demagogues like Trump. The Madisonian system of checks and balances has endured for more than two centuries. It survived the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Cold War, and Watergate. Surely, then, it will be able to survive the current president?
We are less certain. Democracies work best—and survive longer—when constitutions are reinforced by norms of mutual toleration and restraint in the exercise of power. For most of the twentieth century, these norms functioned as the guardrails of American democracy, helping to avoid the kind of partisan fights-to-the-death that have destroyed democracies elsewhere in the world, including in Europe in the 1930s and South America in the 1960s and 1970s. But those norms are now weakening. By the time Barack Obama became president, many Republicans, in particular, questioned the legitimacy of their Democratic rivals and had abandoned restraint for a strategy of winning by any means necessary. Donald Trump has accelerated this process, but he didn’t cause it. The challenges we face run deeper than one president, however troubling this one might be.

Democratic governance solves extinction.

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