The Supreme Court Was Us. Not Anymore

Linda Greenhouse writes that the justices' views are no longer the majority's
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2021 2:55 PM CST
Nation No Longer Has the Supreme Court It Deserves
The Supreme Court Building in Washington is seen at dusk in October.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

(Newser) – In 2008, Linda Greenhouse, a New York Times reporter who had covered the Supreme Court for almost 30 years, assessed the court's place in the nation in an essay. "The court is in Americans' collective hands," she wrote. "We shape it; it reflects us. At any given time, we may not have the Supreme Court we want. We may not have the court we need. But we have, most likely, the Supreme Court we deserve." Greenhouse's views have changed since then, she writes in a new opinion piece in the Times, as has the court. Now, she writes, the country deserves better.

The justices don't represent the views of the majority of Americans because they weren't chosen by a majority of Americans. Six justices were picked by Republican presidents, only three of whom received a majority of the popular vote when they were elected. The GOP leanings of small states and realities of the Electoral College mean that the three justices named by former President Donald Trump were confirmed in close votes by senators representing less than half of the US population, Greenhouse notes.

The result is a court whose majority view isn't the nation's. For example, polls regularly show Americans want to leave Roe v. Wade alone, but the court's illogical handling of the Texas law suggests that's not the way it's headed, writes Greenhouse. "We now have justices apparently untroubled by process and precedent, let alone appearances." With their life tenure, these justices could "capture the court for the next generation and freeze in place a legacy the American people never chose," she says. That leads Greenhouse to an updated answer on that rhetorical question from 2008: "Is this the Supreme Court we deserve? It is not." (Read the full piece here.)

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