If it didn’t say Maureen Dowd up top, I would swear this was a column by the designated Millennial, Michelle Goldberg. It’s got that snarky tone. It’s shallow and assumptive. It conflates reason for feelings. But this is Dowd.
Ordinarily staid and silent Supreme Court justices have become whirling dervishes of late, spinning madly to rebut the idea that Americans are beginning to regard the court as a dangerous cabal of partisan hacks.
They need not fret and wring their hands. No one is beginning to think that.
Many of us have thought that for a long time.
Sick burn, Mo. And it’s true that Justice Alito and Coney Barrett have spoken out against the perception of the Supreme Court as being political hacks, which unsurprisingly didn’t work nearly as well as they hoped. But justices giving talks isn’t anything new. Justice Sotomayor did so as well, but Dowd didn’t find room to criticize her controversial public speech, which is fine but for the fact that her characterization of the ones she hates while pretending the one she likes never happened seems a bit disingenuous. But not nearly as disingenuous as what follows.
Supremes are often Shakespeare fans, so of course they are familiar with the phrase “doth protest too much, methinks.”
The once august court’s approval ratings on fairness were already falling two decades ago. The bloom came off the robe in 2000, when the court threw the game on Bush v. Gore, voting 5 to 4 to stop the Florida recount and anoint a Republican president.
The Supreme Court’s “approval ratings” have fallen. Then again, they’re still higher than Congress’ and journalists’, and the president’s approval rating hasn’t been doing great lately either. But I digress.
Dowd blames the Supreme Court for everything Shrub did that she hates, because Bush v. Gore. But had they come out the other way, and Ozone Gore gave us a lock box, the Supreme Court would have been groovy.
The right-wing justices may as well embrace their reputation for hackery. Because in this blockbuster year, when the conservative court begins debating abortion and the Second Amendment, one thing is certain: They are going to make rulings that will drive people crazy, rulings that will be out of sync with what most Americans believe.
So please, conservative cabal, don’t pretend you’re not doing this out of ideology.
Dowd is no doubt right that their rulings will drive people crazy, mostly because everything drives people crazy, as Dowd has learned from attending the meetings. But her ability to see into the future, to know with certainty that the rulings will be “out of sync” with what most Americans believe is impressive in an delusionally infantile sort of way, because isn’t the Supreme Court supposed to decide its cases on the basis of popularity? I don’t know what they will decide. You don’t either. But Dowd knows? Well of course she does, because of their “reputation for hackery.”
Ignore the charade of the parade of justices protesting that they are pure and neutral. Nobody’s buying it. We all know it’s a disaster if the country’s going one way and the court’s going the other.
The Least Dangerous Branch, as the court was once known, has become the Most Dangerous Branch.
None of this would be surprising, or even interesting if it came from the usual hysterics. But this is from Maureen Dowd, one of the few remaining grownups at the New York Times. And yet, she has some advice from one old to another.
And please, Justice Breyer, skedaddle. You’re playing a dangerous game. You need to get out of there because it looks as if the midterms are going to be bad, and if the Democrats lose the Senate majority, there’s no guarantee that Mitch McConnell will let any Biden nominee onto the court, even with two years left on the president’s term. Do you want the court to be 7 to 2?
Of course, Breyer also spoke publicly recently, like Alito and Barrett, and said in effect that he’ll retire when he’s damn good and ready. Weird that Dowd didn’t mention how he “doth protest too much, methinks.”