Brow Beat

John Oliver Says the Supreme Court Fight Is Already Lost—but Others Are Just Beginning

After a brief hiatus (and an Emmy win), John Oliver returned to Last Week Tonight on Sunday with a less-than-uplifting take on Amy Coney Barrett’s likely confirmation to the Supreme Court: “If things seem hopeless right now, its because, to be honest, they basically are.”

Oliver reflected on the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the cravenness of the Republican rush to fill her open seat less than two months before the presidential election, spending the majority of the segment examining Mitch McConnell’s agenda to pack the courts with conservative judges. He also explained how we got to a place where Republicans can say they represent the will of the people while leaving aside the electorate’s opposition to their party platform.


Ted Cruz accurately summed up the party’s inaccurate line, saying that the “American people elected President Trump and a Republican majority because we want the Constitution and Bill of Rights protected and that is our job and what we need to do.” For him, Oliver composed a little poem:


I do not like that man, Ted Cruz

I do not like his backwoods views

I do not like his stupid suits

I do not like his cowboy boots

I do not like him when he sneezes

I do not like him eating cheeses

I hate to see his dumb face smirking

Because his beard looks like a merkin.

But the mandate that Republicans claim they have is largely the reflection of, Oliver says, “the deeply undemocratic nature of American institutions.” Everything from the “winner-take-all approach” of electoral college to the makeup of the Senate (where the average Black American has 75% of the representation that of a white American) to plain old-fashioned gerrymandering has brought us to a place where a president that has lost the popular vote will have appointed “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 people than the Democratic minority.”

And while Oliver looked ahead to future battles—like abolishing the electoral college and granting statehood to Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico—he acknowledged that Barrett’s likely confirmation is nothing less than “a generational battle, and the heartbreaking thing is, we lost […] It’s going to hurt for a long time, for a lot of people, in ways that are going to take awhile to fully comprehend. But the next battle has to start right now.”