There I was, buying my groceries in The Market at Brookside and among the gossip rags was the Time magazine, Chief Justice John Roberts picture on the front and the question "Does the Supreme Court Still Matter?" I bought it.
The article generally concludes NO, it doesn't matter.
The irony is that the Court's ideology is playing a dwindling role in the lives of Americans. The familiar hot-button controversies--abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, police powers and so on--have been around so long, sifted and resifted so many times, that they now arrive at the court in highly specific cases affecting few, if any, real people
I'm a Nina Totenberg nerdy court watcher, their decisions matter. What I have seen is a steady, right-wing chipping away at our rights. Hudson - let in questionable evidence, Marsh - KS death penalty constitutional, PICS v. Seattle - can't use race as sole factor in school assignments, Gonzales - abortion procedure banned, Ledbetter - limits time to file employment discrimination cases. Other commentators have determined that the Robert's Court is pro-business.
The reality is that almost every important decision coming out of the Supreme Court is 5-4, with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the deciding vote. Rehnquist and O'Connor were replaced with Roberts and Alito. Roberts has led the court down a right wing path and needs but a single additional vote to ensure he gets his way every time. Even Time agrees with that.
In which case, no one should be surprised that Roberts has turned out to be an uncompromising conservative on a court split 4 to 4 on ideology, with a fifth conservative, Justice Anthony Kennedy, deciding case after case according to his own self-dramatizing muse. When Roberts was picked to be the nation's 17th Chief Justice, he talked a great deal about the need for the fractious court to find more coherence and common ground, to wage fewer ideological spats on the pages of unnecessary separate opinions. Some wondered if this was an offer on his part to split the difference between the rival camps, but no one wonders anymore. In two terms, Roberts has not taken a single position on a high-profile case that you would not expect a darling of the conservative Federalist Society to take.
All this to say, let's elect a Democratic president so John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg can retire so we can put on a couple of 50 year olds. No doubt that Roberts was qualified, but also no doubt that he was a highly conservative, Republican, Federalist. Thank goodness for the Missouri Plan!!