John Oliver returned to his desk after a month-long break – and an Emmy win – to focus on the furor in Washington over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s successor. He offered few jokes in between his long-winded objection over Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett.
Oliver started his segment with the GOP’s efforts to rush the Supreme Court justice confirmation process of Barrett. Oliver was unhappy that the legacy of liberal stalwart Ginsburg was being replaced by the extremely conservative Barrett. Oliver continued to describe Barrett as having staunch anti-abortion views and called her the “female Antonin Scalia.”
He detailed the effect the confirmation could have for years to come listing key cases that have been decided by a single vote like upholding the Affordable Cart Act, preserving Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy and striking down a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana. Oliver noted that in the future the results might swing the other way with a conservative majority in the Supreme Court.
Oliver was quick to point out the Republican party’s hypocrisy in expediting a Supreme Court justice nomination in an election year after the Republican-majority Senate famously blocked Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland following Scalia’s death.
After playing a clip of Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) saying the court should represent the center-right politics of the national population, Oliver used his statement to springboard most of the issues the segment covered.
“Our country isn’t so much center-right as Mitt Romney is center-wrong,” quipped Oliver.
Oliver pointed to the genesis of all our nation’s ills: Senator McConnell (R-KY). “The only thing to come out of Kentucky more shameless than the KFC menu,” Oliver jabbed. He summarized McConnell’s systematic denial of Obama lower court appointments to save them for a conservative president down the road. Trump bragged about his judicial victories when in reality the W, Oliver said, is owed to McConnell’s connivery.
Oliver attacked the Republican notion that they are performing their “constitutional duty” the voters gave them. He gently reminded viewers that the president did not win the popular vote and rehashed familiar arguments of abolishing the electoral college to better reflect the political demographic of the United States.
He described the political absurdity in a simple statistic. “When Barrett is confirmed, a president who lost the popular vote will have picked a quarter of the federal judiciary and a third of the Supreme Court and his choices will have been rubber-stamped by a Senate Republican majority representing 15 million fewer than the Democratic minority.”
“What can now be done?” asked Oliver.
He offered viewers little solace as he notes that having more Democratic candidates win elections will do little to no good if their politics lean center. Oliver lamented current moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on their outdated longing for a more civilized, bipartisan way of operating politics.
“I’ve got an answer for you Joe. No! You can’t!,” Oliver said. “That is not just dumb. That’s dumb on the level of James Cameron going ‘You know what people want? Four more Avatar movies.'”
Noting the rosy possibility that Dems win elections and unrealistically abolish the filibuster, Oliver laid out the uphill battle against a newly installed conservative Supreme Court. He added that Dems should consider passing radical legislation to add Supreme court justices to the bench. “Nothing should be taken off the table,” Oliver said.
Somewhat dismissing that idea since the system might add justices ad infinitum, Oliver proposed a more peaceful approach favoring legislation granting statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington DC, which currently have no senatorial representation. Giving statehood to these territories would dilute the Senate’s bias for white, rural voters, said Oliver. The population of DC and Puerto Rico approximately equals that of Rhode Island, Maine, Montana and Wyoming combined – totaling eight Senate seats.
Oliver moved onto the abolition of the electoral college – an idea which was even privately endorsed by tricky Dick, even coming close to reality in 1970 before being ultimately blocked by a filibuster. Oliver perused possible ways in which the electoral college could be reformed with or without constitutional amendment and the effect of setting term limits for Supreme Court justices.
He argued that all these reforms would not “rig the system”, as the Republican detractors claim, but would further democratize it.
He ended his diatribe with a morbid tone extending viewers few consolations and calling people to immediate action.
“The unavoidable truth is that the system is already rigged and it’s rigged in a way that has allowed a party without popular support to drastically reshape an entire branch of government for the foreseeable future by appealing almost exclusively to white voters in some of the least populous parts of the country. That is not a mandate or democracy. It’s a fucking travesty. We’re at the end of a generational battle and the heartbreaking this is – we lost. It’s going to hurt for a long time for a lot of people. The next battle has to start right now. Sometimes fighting fire with fire is not enough. You have to fight mule piss with mule piss,” said Oliver.
After the dire, defeatist message, Oliver segued into some non-sequitur, comedic relief. It was announced that Peeps, the overly sweet marshmallow bird-shaped confection, would discontinue production. It was revealed shortly thereafter their shutdown was temporary and are restarting production next year before Easter.
He ended his thirty-minute program with a PSA for people to fill out the census. To bore viewers at home into filling the online form, Oliver devoted the last two minutes to a bouncing “DVD Video” logo screensaver and an audiobook reading of Sean Penn’s 2018 book Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff“. He saved the best joke for last and quoted a hilarious excerpt from the Oscar-winning actor’s book: “Effervescence lived in her every cellular expression, and she had spizzerinctum to spare.”
Last Week Tonight will be back next week for the last episode of season 7.