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Government Ethics
Government Ethics
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How Justice Alito is openly testing the bounds of judicial conduct

Sarat is associate provost, associate dean of the faculty and a professor of jurisprudence and political science at Amherst College. Aftergut is a former federal prosecutor in San Francisco.
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President-elect Joe Biden, who with Jill Biden marked Veterans Day on Wednesday, has come under criticism for not making democracy reform a priority.

Anxious democracy reformers pressing Biden to make more of their causes

Joe Biden has plenty of campaign promises to keep, beyond the obvious and enormous top priorities of corralling the coronavirus and stabilizing the economy. And that's made democracy reform groups, which have never counted him as an impassioned ally, newly skeptical their priorities will get addressed in his new administration.

Their anxiety has come to the surface this week. A coalition of 170 progressive good governance and voting rights organizations asked the president-elect to elevate a collection of fix-the-system proposals into his first 100 days' agenda. Separately, one of the most influential such groups, RepresentUs, lambasted the Biden transition for "an omission of epic proportions" by giving short shrift to the issues it cares about.

Their impatience, just days after Biden's victory became clear, underscores the precarious position the cause of fixing democracy's dysfunction has in the public policy agenda.

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Balance of Power
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GSA Administrator Emily Murphy has not signed the paperwork necessary to begin the formal transition process.

One top Trump appointee's silence means the Biden transition cannot begin

The peaceful transfer of power, the final bedrock of American democracy that Donald Trump has the capacity to crack while he's still president, is now officially off to a delayed start.

Two days after Joe Biden claimed the presidency with a clear majority of electoral votes, the Trump administration has not followed through on the formalities that begin the transition. Each of the 72 days before the inauguration when that does not happen represents time unavailable for responsible, if not good, governance to prevail during a resurgent pandemic.

Instead, the president's lawyers signaled they were pressing ahead with lawsuits in a handful of states, none for now supported by credible evidence of significant election irregularities — let alone the fraud that Trump claims.

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Joe Biden unveiled a full slate of political reforms early in the campaign but has spent minimal time talking about these issues in recent months.

While you wait: What a Democratic sweep would mean for democracy reform

American democracy has taken a beating over the last four years, but Election Day may set the table for historic reforms.

The severe stress test for democratic norms can be counted on to further intensify if President Trump gets re-elected. Continuation of a divided Congress would likely perpetuate gridlock on most policy fronts. But should Joe Biden win the White House, and the Senate turn Democratic as well, the new president would take office with an ambitious stack of ready-to-go democracy reform bills on his desk — all of them strongly backed by Democrats newly in control of the entire Capitol.

And those sweeping overhauls of the laws governing campaign financing, voting rights, gerrymandering, executive branch ethics, the courts and even the inner workings of Congress would all be both on the table and viable. The question would be how high they would be on a Biden priority list and how much political capital he and his congressional allies would be willing to spend to get them done.

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