If anyone still doubted that the Supreme Court served as the nation’s chief policymaking institution after Dobbs, Thursday should put that to rest. The court is ruthlessly efficient, putting our gridlocked Congress to shame with its speedy and definitive resolution of the most pressing issues facing the country today. It does not require hourslong hearings or endless negotiations to operate. The six-justice conservative majority chooses which conflicts to prioritize, takes up cases that present them, then picks a winner, nearly always for the benefit of the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
Consider the issues that SCOTUS has resolved this term—the first full term with a 6–3 conservative supermajority. The constitutional right to abortion: gone. States’ ability to limit guns in public: gone. Tribal sovereignty against state intrusion: gone. Effective constraints around separation of church and state: gone. The bar on prayer in public schools: gone. Effective enforcement of Miranda warnings: gone. The ability to sue violent border agents: gone. The Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases at power plants: gone. Vast areas of the law, established over the course of decades, washed away by a court over a few months.
There is no serious risk of another branch overriding these decisions. The squabbling among our elected representatives is, increasingly, a sideshow, with the court nudging along the decline of voters’ ability to shape their democracy. One-third of the court was appointed by a president who lost the popular vote, yet the majority evinces not a shred of caution about overriding the democratic branches or its own predecessors on the bench. It imposes Republican policies far more effectively than the Republican Party ever could. Real power in this country no longer lies in the people. It resides at the Supreme Court. [Continue reading…]