Princeton Election Consortium

A first draft of electoral history. Since 2004

The Supreme Court’s rightward turn

June 28th, 2012, 6:31am by Sam Wang


Today at 10:00am the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) rules on the Affordable Care Act. Opinion by Chief Justice Roberts, maybe with Associate Justice Kennedy. Look for a 5-4 decision to overturn part/all, or a 6-3 decision to uphold (with CJ switching to maintain control). Update: upheld, 5-4. I misunderstood the advance word. Roberts wrote for the majority (5 votes to uphold), Kennedy joined the dissent (4 votes to overturn the entire act…whoa!). Did Roberts’s vote flip? Update2: more evidence.

In the meantime, quantification of SCOTUS’s rightward turn:SCOTUS ideology vs. time

This work comes from Andrew Martin and Kevin Quinn have quantified the ideological range of SCOTUS. Unsurprisingly, the median justice has become significantly more conservative. More interesting is the fact that the most “liberal” justice – currently Ruth Bader Ginsburg – has shifted dramatically. Apparently the Roberts Court majority (and before that, the Rehnquist Court) has done a very good job of pulling everyone to the right.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • Wu

    Yes, it does look like Roberts flipped, constraining the Commerce Clause as he did. I read reports yesterday which noted that the SC dissent has many clues that it was once written as a majority opinion, repeatedly referred to Judge Ginsberg’s “dissent” which suggests they thought at one point they and not she were in the majority. They also noted that re: the claim that the penalty was a tax they noted, “we have no need to address the point” as if the majority had refused to accept the validity of that argument.

    It’s been suggested that Roberts made the switch in order to ‘keep his powder dry’ for upcoming cases:

    Adam Winkler @ Scotusblog noted right after the decision came down that, “No Supreme Court has struck down a president’s signature piece of legislation in over 75 years. Had Obamacare been voided, it would have inevitably led to charges of aggressive judicial activism. Roberts peered over the abyss and decided he didn’t want to go there…. Roberts may have voted to save healthcare because he wants to preserve the Court’s capital to take on other big issues heading toward the Court. Legal experts predict the Roberts Court will invalidate a key provision of one of the most important laws in American history, the Voting Rights Act, next term. And the Court is set to end affirmative action in public education. Both policies have been centerpieces of America’s commitment to civil rights for over forty years.
    The Roberts Court has only just begun.”