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“Now that he’s officially taken his seat on the Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh has no obvious reason to care what you think. Neither does Sonia Sotomayor, or Samuel Alito, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They and their colleagues are justices for life,1 which should in theory give them the freedom to write unpopular opinions.
But Supreme Court history shows that’s not always how it works. In the past, the justices have appeared to bend to popular opinion, in addition to being reined in by other branches of government when they deviate dramatically from the mainstream. That history has a lot to tell us about how much leeway the court’s new majority has when deciding future cases on issues where a conservative ruling might spark a backlash, like abortion. These justices may have an unprecedented opportunity to shift an already conservative court even further to the right, but they’ll likely have to navigate more than just jurisprudence if they want their rulings to last.
The relationship between the court and the rest of us is well-studied by historians and political scientists. And several studies do suggest that the justices respond to public opinion. For example, Peter Enns, a political science professor at Cornell University, found that the court’s ideological tilt tracks with public opinion over time. “We can’t get inside their minds and understand how they’re weighing the potential public reaction,” he said. “But when the public’s perspective is more liberal, we consistently see more liberal Supreme Court decisions, and the reverse is true when the public mood is more conservative. It’s hard to believe that’s just a coincidence.””
JJ Editor's Daily Picks
"The biggest topic in British political circles on Monday wasn’t the country’s impending departure from the European Union. It was milkshakes..."
"I often disagree with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., but I've been disturbed by the idea that he should be run out of the Republican Party just because he believes President Trump committed impeachable offenses."
"The Icelandic band Hatari, whose members are quite vocal in their animosity towards Israel, held up Palestinian flags... Madonna, likewise, had two of her performers wear Israeli and Palestinian flags on their costumes."
"To celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, I turn to movie critic Roger Ebert's old review of "Raiders of the Lost Ark." (Trust me on this one.)"
"The money is already here—and has been for years. In the midst of a housing crisis, an injection of cash into the superheated real-estate market seems likely to cause an uptick in evictions and displacement."
"Parents concerned about YouTube debate whether to let their children have their own channels; some forbid it, others send them to summer camp..."
"‘I Had Completely Lost the Knack for Staying Alive..." Warmer weather brings daffodils, rhubarb at the farmer’s market — and, for some, despair."
"With his new book, Howard Stern proves that his rightful place is among the prophets and moral visionaries, not the ‘shock jocks’"
"I’m terrified of parenting in the anti-vaxxer age: Anti-vaccine propaganda isn’t just harmful to children. It threatens to erode our entire sense of community."
"...doctors are starting to think more about specific nutrients that feed tumor cells. That is, how what we eat affects how cancers grow..."
"...it represents an impressive achievement: a victory of humankind against the chaos that pervades the universe."
"If trends continue, in 20 years the majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel. The United States will see a continuing decline in overall numbers, with a growing observant Jewish population..."