When the pressure got to Joe Biden last October, he broke.
After refusing to say during the 2020 presidential campaign that he wouldn't push to expand the Supreme Court if he were elected, he and his campaign decided on a pat response that would keep the wolves at bay. If he were elected, he said, he would appoint a commission to study court reform.
That way, he didn't have to tell voters he would expand the court, which would drive them away. And he didn't have to tell the controlling left wing of his party that he wouldn't, which would drive its denizens away.
That Biden couldn't be honest with the American people then speaks volumes about the early days of his administration when the unity he called for in his inaugural address has been shattered with a record number of executive actions that have put people out of work and made them fear for the future.
Now, increasingly loud voices in the Democratic Party are saying the administration must push to expand the court because of its 6-3 majority of justices appointed by Republican presidents. Current laws and future legislation, they say, will be at risk if they don't.
The conclusions of a court reform commission — especially if it, as would be expected, suggests increasing the size of the court — would free Biden from making the decision.
"See," he could say, "this is what this group of constitutional scholars has recommended. Why would we not go along with its recommendations?"
Why, indeed, if the Biden administration appointed its members and came to the conclusion most of his party wants?
One reason is that such hypocrisy would even more firmly entrench in the American public's mind that the president is not a man of his word. Until and even into the campaign last year, he was firmly opposed to expanding the court.
In Biden's own words:
* "[President Franklin Roosevelt's idea to pack the court in 1937] was a bonehead idea. ... It was a terrible, terrible mistake to make, and it put in question for an entire decade the independence of ... the Supreme Court." (1983)
* What Roosevelt did was an outrageous "power grab," proving the president was "corrupted by power." (2005)
* "I'm not prepared to go on and try to pack the Court, because we'll live to rue the day." (2019)
* "I would not get into court packing. We begin to lose any credibility the Court has at all. (2019)
* "It will come back to bite us. It should not be a political football." (2019)
* I'm "not a fan of court-packing." (October 2020)
Biden is silent on the matter now, but during the campaign — all within about a week — he said voters would know his position "when the election is over," then said they "have a right to know where I stand before they vote," then said "no, they don't deserve" to know.
Late in the campaign, three polls said Americans were opposed to the idea by 54-32, 47-34 and 58-31 margins.
Earlier this week, though, when Fox News posed the question to the White House whether the president would commit to nine seats on the Supreme Court (as has been the case for 152 years), administration spokespersons did not respond.
But the White House did say Biden remains behind "an expert study of the role and debate over reform of the court, and will have more to say in the coming weeks." However, it denied a Politico report that the commission already was being staffed.
In October, he said he would ask the commission "to, over 180 days, come back to me with recommendations as to how to reform the court system because it's getting pretty out of whack." Of course, he also said, "it's not about 'court-packing'."
Nevertheless, eight far left groups have united to form Unrig the Courts, putting more pressure on the president. Their four demands include expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court, expanding lower federal courts, enacting term limits for Supreme Court justices, and improving ethics and transparency requirements for justices.
"The Supreme Court has become too partisan and too political, and with a united Democratic government, the time to act is now," Brian Fallon of Demand Justice, one of the eight groups, said in a statement. "The 6-3 Republican-appointed majority consistently sides with Republican politicians and corporate interests over the American people, and we must act before they rig the rules of our democracy even further."
Of course, there would be no commission, no eight groups uniting and no pressure on Biden if the court had more justices appointed by Democrats (or Republicans who weren't constitutionalist judges), as was the case for about the last 60 years of the 20th century.
It's not any more complicated than Democrats want the court to be under their aegis, and they want to take whatever steps are necessary to see to it.
Although Democrats would not be able to take such steps unless they get rid of the Senate filibuster, the American people should be horrified at such naked actions and let their voices be heard.