Most Americans now disapprovingly view the Supreme Court as partisan. Can the conservative court restore its reputation by saving Obama's key achievement?
A recent poll from The New York Times and CBS News shows public support for the Supreme Court has drooped to a dauntingly low 44 percent, down from 50 percent in 2000 and 66 percent in the late 1980s. Seventy-six percent of respondents said the justices sometimes base their decisions on personal and political views. This "disdain" for the Supreme Court as just another biased institution is heard in both Democrat and Republican camps, and it's "deeply dangerous for the court, and for our system of government," says Robert Reich in The Christian Science Monitor. It might also save ObamaCare. If Chief Justice John Roberts "understands the tenuous position" his court's in, he'll "do whatever he can to avoid another 5-4 split" along party lines. Adds Reich: "My guess is he'll try to get Anthony Kennedy to join with him and with the four Democratic appointees to uphold the law's constitutionality." Is this just liberal wishful thinking, or might the high court try to save itself by saving ObamaCare?
If justices want to raise their approval rating, they'll sink ObamaCare: Reich's argument is "both wrong and self-serving," says Peter Suderman at Reason. First, "it assumes that the court would rule to protect its reputation rather than based on its understanding of the law." But even if the justices are worried about their (by no means disastrous) 44 percent rating, the best way to please "a wary public" is to strike down ObamaCare's loathed individual mandate, and probably even the entire law.
"Could the Supreme Court bolster its public image..."
The Supreme Court can't afford to strike it down: Justices Roberts and Kennedy "might think in the abstract" that ObamaCare fails to pass constitutional muster, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe tells CNN. But neither finds it "so clearly unconstitutional" that he'd feel "comfortable joining a bare majority to strike it down." If they quash it anyways, that will "inescapably contribute to an already significant erosion in the public's trust in the Supreme Court" to be fair and impartial. That's a pretty steep price.
"Supreme Court in a no-win position on ObamaCare?"
The key justice doesn't care what you think: Let's stop kidding ourselves — this will all come down to swing voter Kennedy, says Matt Taylor at Slate. And "those on the left hoping... Kennedy might take notice" of the Times/CBS poll and then switch his vote "are likely to be disappointed." He actually seems to enjoy "inflaming passions on left and right." And even if he did care, "it's probably too late for it to make a difference." The opinions were substantively written long before the poll came out.
"Justice Kennedy doesn't care about that Supreme Court poll"
Other stories from this topic:
- Analysis: The real story behind the Supreme Court's campaign finance showdown: 6 takeaways
- The List: The Supreme Court's historically low approval ratings: 4 theories
- Forecast: Would striking down ObamaCare hurt the Supreme Court's credibility?