Politics is a game that constantly exposes party inconsistencies. On Saturday, El Salvador’s National Assembly, sympathetic to Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, dismissed the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ) and also the country’s Attorney General, Raul Melara. Democrats in the United States came out in unison to condemn Bukele’s abuse of the Supreme Court, but that opened their own party to criticism from the president of El Salvador, as Democrats push to pack the U.S. Supreme Court.
Just as Nayib Bukele now has everything to become a dictator, with a loyal legislature and no judiciary to counterbalance him, the Democrats, who now have a majority in both houses of Congress and hold the presidency with Joe Biden, are also proposing to expand the Supreme Court. Why would that be any different?
The packing of the Supreme Court would allow for the expansion of the number of justices on the highest judicial branch of the U.S. judiciary. The Court now has 9 justices, of which 6 are conservative and 3 are liberal. Democrats are proposing to raise the number of Supreme Court seats to 13, which could give them an eventual ideological majority.
Although the case is not the same and the Supreme Courts of El Salvador and the United States are very different, the Democrats expose a conflict of political positions when they criticize the trampling of the judiciary in El Salvador, while they themselves defend or do not criticize the packing of the Supreme Court from the most radical ranks of their party. This is hypocritical, to say the least.
The arguments of the Democrats and the Salvadoran president differ a little, but in essence, they break with the institutionality of their countries, with the difference that the United States are a much more solid republic than El Salvador and probably the expansion of the Supreme Court will not happen.
Bukele says that the people of El Salvador overwhelmingly support his decisions and therefore he can override the rule of law. Democrats, on the other hand, say they can corrupt the country’s institutions because the Supreme Court today is “biased,” although this is not necessarily the case.
Justice Stephen Breyer, who was appointed to the Court by former President Bill Clinton in 1994, explains well why the ideology of Supreme Court justices takes a back seat once appointed: “Make those whose initial instincts may favor important structural (or other similar institutional) changes, such as forms of ‘court-packing,’ think long and hard before embodying those changes in law,” Justice Breyer told Harvard University students in an April speech.
“If the public sees judges as politicians in robes, their confidence in the courts and the rule of law can only diminish, which reduces the power of the court, including its power to act as a check on other branches. My experience of over 30 years (…) as a judge has shown me that, once men and women take the judicial oath, they take it to heart. They are loyal to the rule of law, not to the political party that helped secure their appointment,” Justice Breyer remarked
Bukele takes advantage of Democrats’ contradictions
“We have deep concerns about El Salvador’s democracy, in light of the National Assembly’s vote to remove constitutional court judges. An independent judiciary is critical to a healthy democracy and a strong economy,” tweeted U.S. Vice-President Kamala Harris.
VP Harris, while showing concern about what is happening in a third country, has yet to officially weigh in on the Democratic push to expand the Supreme Court.
Another major Democratic voice speaking out on the Salvadoran case was Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said he spoke “with Salvadoran President @NayibBukele to express serious concerns about yesterday’s move to undermine El Salvador’s highest court and Attorney General Melara. Democratic governance requires respecting the separation of powers, for the good of all Salvadorans.”
Harris’ and Blinken’s statements, political and diplomatic after all, could have gone unnoticed beyond the double standard. But there was one thing that caught the eye, and it is evidence of how the United States is losing moral authority in the eyes of the world.
Jim McGovern (D-MA), also spoke out about the trampling of the judiciary in El Salvador: “I am disturbed and angered by President Bukele’s new National Assembly majority voting to remove all the judges of the Constitutional Chamber. Let’s be clear: this is not democracy, it is the destruction of an independent judiciary and the rule of law”.
Nayib Bukele, who has already had clashes in networks with American representatives on other occasions, took advantage of McGovern’s tweet to quote a New York Times story reporting that President Biden appointed a commission to study a possible expansion of the number of Supreme Court justices.
With this panorama, this man, who could easily be the next dictator of the Central American region, uses the inconsistencies of the Democratic Party to criticize the United States.
How can the American authorities criticize Bukele when they, in essence, don’t condemn a similar proposal that comes from the most radical actors of the Democratic Party?