Episode 88

Supreme Court Partisanship, MLK Protests, Debating Debaters

Ravi and Rikki start by asking what makes a good protest, in light of the much-derided demonstrations from groups like Just Stop Oil and Animal Rebellion recently. Then the hosts turn to a question many treat as settled: is the Supreme Court partisan? And if so, is it more partisan than it used to be? Finally, Ravi and Rikki discuss whether political debates can be saved, as more and more candidates up and down the ballot try to dodge the debate stage. 


Rikki questions the effectiveness of some bold protest tactics deployed in the name of animal rights and climate activism in the UK, as she and Ravi transition into the challenging question of where society should draw the line on demonstration and how history judges civil disobedience.

The hosts note the American public’s plummeting trust in the Supreme Court and try to unravel the widely held reason: it’s become a partisan institution. Ravi and Rikki ask whether that’s true, and if so, whether it’s more true now than in years past.

Finally, Ravi takes us back to yesteryear, when political debates seemed to matter more than they do now, as he and Rikki examine the recent rise in debate dodging, what’s behind it, and whether it can change back.

What Makes a Good Protest? [2:32]

Should Free-Speech Absolutists Defend Vandalism of Precious Artwork? (Reason, 10/17)
In defence of Just Stop Oil (Dazed, 10/17)
The anti-human vandalism of Just Stop Oil (Spiked, 10/14)
Is It Right to Break the Law?; The question is raised by recent incidents of civil disobedience in the United States. Here a philosopher examines a fundamental moral problem as old as Socrates. (New York Times, 1/12/1964)
Do Protests Even Work? (The Atlantic, 6/24/2020)
Video of Just Stop Oil Protestors Throwing Tomato Soup at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (Twitter/Damien Gayle, 10/14)
Protestors Dumping Milk in Supermarkets in the UK (Twitter/Joshua Potesh, 10/15)

Is the Supreme Court Partisan? [14:56]

The Supreme Court Has Never Been Apolitical (Politico, 4/3)
The Supreme Court in a Constitutional Democracy | Law and Politics in the Roberts Court (YouTube/Harvard Law School, 19:50, 9/22)
Politics, the Court, and ‘the dangerous place we find ourselves in right now’ (Harvard Law Today, 9/21)
The Supreme Court’s Partisan Divide Hasn’t Been This Sharp In Generations (FiveThirtyEight, 6/5)
Supreme Court Nominations (1789-Present) (United States Senate Website, 2022)
Harvard Law School Rappaport Forum: Reform of the Supreme Court? (YouTube/Harvard Law School, 3/25/2021)
Is the Supreme Court broken? (Harvard Law Today, 3/25/2021)
Obama Says He’s Open to Supreme Court Reform but Warns against ‘Explicit Political Games’ (National Review, 10/15)
The litmus test for a Supreme Court nominee (Vox, 7/5/2018)

The Debate Over Debates [32:07]

As Campaign Norms Erode, Even Debates Are Under Debate (New York Times, 10/19)
Before the midterm debates comes the debate over debates (Washington Post, 9/10)
The worrying decline of the Senate candidate debate (Brookings, 10/10)
This midterm season, the role of the debate has changed (NPR, 9/22)
Debate dodging: The latest threat to our democracy (The Hill Op-Ed, 10/15)
Up for debate? Midterm candidates dispute rules and dodge debates in a new campaign normal (USA Today, 9/16)
The Senate debate season is slow in 2022. There’s a reason for that. (Politico, 9/8)
Candidates Look to Bypass Debates Amid Turn From Substance to Spectacle (US News, 9/9)
Why we’re seeing fewer debates in a lot of 2022 midterm races (Wisconsin Public Radio, 9/21)
Why so few candidates are taking part in debates (WBUR, 10/5)
Campaign Debates Are Democracy Theater (Foreign Policy, 10/3/20)
American presidential debates rarely change election outcomes (The Economist, 9/28/20)
Debates Are Dangerous. Time to Legislate Them. (Politico Op-Ed, 10/6)
When and Where to Watch Key Debates in the Midterm Elections (New York Times, 10/18)
Reagan and the age issue (YouTube/Doug Wead, 0:34, 4/1/2009
The Story Behind ‘You’re No Jack Kennedy’ | NBC News (YouTube/NBC News, 10/3/2016)
Clinton vs. Bush in 1992 Debate (YouTube/Seth Masket, 0:08, 3/20/2007)
Debacle: What Al Gore’s First Debate Against George W. Bush Can Teach Hillary Clinton (New York Times, 9/25/2016)
‘Coward’: Lee Zeldin calls out Kathy Hochul for refusing multiple debates (New York Post, 10/17)
Dukakis-Bush debate: death penalty (YouTube/lawford83, 0:06, 6/4/2008)
Walker pulls out police badge during Georgia Senate debate | Georgia Senate Debate (YouTube/NewsNation, 3:30, 10/14)