Mellman: The decline of SCOTUS
Radical justices are doing serious, possibly irrepealable damage to the Supreme Court on which they sit.
When the draft abortion opinion leaked, I wrote here that by “slapping two-thirds of the country in the face [those who oppose overturning Roe], the Court will have sacrificed its legitimacy at a time when restoring it may be crucial to preserving democracy.”
It turns out I was right. Even before the final opinions overturning Roe and the New York gun law, Gallup found confidence in the Supreme Court had sunk to its lowest level — ever.
Just 25 percent repose “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court, down 11 points from a year ago and 5 points lower than the next worse showing ever.
Gallup recorded declining confidence in most institutions, but the drop for the Supreme Court was roughly twice that for comparable institutions.
A peak at the historical data puts this new low in context. Between 1973 and 2006, an average of 47 percent of Americans expressed confidence in the court. During that entire third of a century, confidence in the court dipped below 40 percent only once, hitting 39 percent. That was during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearing, as the country heard testimony accusing him of sexually harassing subordinates.
Confirmed despite the allegations, Thomas uses his court seat to be a ringleader in the effort to roll back rights. It was his opinion that suggested undoing the right to contraception and gay rights, as well as abortion rights.
It’s easy to understand why Americans lost faith in the court.
First and foremost, Americans fundamentally disagree with the justices. Some two-thirds wanted to keep Roe as the law of the land. It’s likely the vast majority also endorsed the 100-year-old, hitherto unchallenged, New York gun law the court overturned in the midst of an epidemic of mass shootings.
No institution can retain credibility with the American people while taking away their rights and endangering their families. No institution can retain support while violating the core values of those they’re supposed to serve.
Second, Americans now clearly see that Supreme Court justices are not exemplars of integrity and virtue, but liars and prevaricators, willing to say anything to achieve their personal and ideological ambitions.
Whether Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) should have known better or not, the fact is that Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh lied to her, to the U.S. Senate, and the American people, under oath, for one reason: It helped them get the job.
A well-deserved perjury investigation would, I’m sure, yield some devastating details about both their earlier statements on Roe and about how the sherpas ushering them through confirmation advised them to offer misleading answers to questions on the issue.
Why would people repose trust in dishonest judges just angling for a better job?
Third, Americans are coming to learn that the legal doctrines about which the justices intone are not serious philosophies, but rather, merely excuses for achieving personal political objectives.
A Quinnipiac poll, before the recent rulings, found 63 percent believing the Supreme Court is “mainly motivated by politics,” while just 32 percent thought the court was “mainly motivated by the law.”
In the gun case, the justices overruled state law. In reversing Roe, they say states should decide. But with the ink barely dry on the opinion, Republican leaders are flip-flopping again, backing a national ban on abortion and urging state laws that would punish abortion providers in states that protect the right to choose.
Sincere advocates of state’s rights (if there were such people) would be rejecting those ideas, not embracing them.
Once a revered institution, the Supreme Court is now reviled.
The justices have only themselves to blame for their misdeeds and radical overreach, but all of us will suffer the consequences — those stemming from the rulings themselves and those resulting from the damage the justices have done to the court’s legitimacy.
Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years, as president of the American Association of Political Consultants, and is president of Democratic Majority for Israel.