[Ed. – At least until the bench comes to its senses (i.e., the majority of the Justices are libs)]
Recent analyses have underscored the new reality of today’s Supreme Court: It is polarized along partisan lines in a way that parallels other political institutions and the rest of society, in a fashion we have never seen. A couple of years ago, David Paul Kuhn, writing in The Atlantic, noted that the percentage of rulings by one-vote margins is higher under Roberts than any previous chief justice in American history. Of course, many decisions are unanimous—but it is the tough, divisive, and most important ones that end up with the one-vote margins.
The New York Times‘s Adam Liptak weighed in recently with a piece called “The Polarized Court,” in which he said, “For the first time, the Supreme Court is closely divided along party lines.” Scott Lemieux, in The Week, noted further that the polarization on the Court, like the polarization in Congress, is asymmetric; conservative justices have moved very sharply to the right, liberals a bit more modestly to the left. Much of the movement did occur before Roberts was elevated to the Supreme Court, but his leadership has sharpened the divisions much more, on issues ranging from race and voting rights to campaign finance and corporate power.
How did we get here? As politics have become polarized and as two-party competition intensified, control of the courts—which are increasingly making major policy decisions—became more important. With lifetime appointments, a party in power for two or four years could have sway over policy for decades after it left power.