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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Two significant analyses of the underlying partisan political consistency of the Supreme Court’s rulings

E.J. Dionne:
Whenever conservatives on the court have had the opportunity to tilt the playing field toward their side, they have done so. And in other recent cases, the court has weakened the capacity of Americans to take on corporate power. The conservative majority seems determined to bring us back to the Gilded Age…
…Liberals will still win occasional and sometimes partial victories, as they did Wednesday on same-sex marriage. But on issues directly related to political and economic influence, the court’s conservative majority is operating as a political faction, determined to shape a future in which progressives will find themselves at a disadvantage….
The voting rights decision should be seen as following a pattern set by the rulings in Bush v. Gore in 2000 and Citizens United in 2010. Bush v. Gore had the effect of installing the conservatives’ choice in the White House and allowed him to influence the court’s subsequent direction with his appointments of Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. Citizens United swept aside a tradition that dated to the Progressive Era — and to the Founders’ deep concern over political corruption — by vastly increasing the power of corporate and monied interests in the electoral sphere.
The Shelby County ruling will make it far more difficult for African Americans to challenge unfair electoral and districting practices. For many states, it will be a Magna Carta to make voting more difficult if they wish to.
Howard Fineman
The shrewdest, most manipulative and radical politician in this city isn’t the president or a member of Congress. He’s the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, John G. Roberts Jr.
In a now familiar two-step of jurisprudence, the Roberts Court on Wednesday tactically ceded ground it did not regard as crucial — this time, on two gay rights cases….But politically, these tolerant rulings on the country’s social fabric deflect attention from the Roberts Court’s deeper goal: to remove the federal government as an impediment to corporate, state and local power. In other words, to dismantle a framework of progressive laws and court rulings stretching back to Teddy Roosevelt, the New Deal and the Great Society….
Viewed over a series of years, the major decisions of the Roberts Court exhibit a contrapuntal political rhythm — and a sharp awareness of how it’s all playing.
Roberts may have wanted to be cautious initially, but his eyes grew wide when presented with the Citizens United case. In 2010, he led the court to declare that corporations, like individuals, have free speech rights that bar the government from limiting what they spend independently on campaigns and elections.
The reaction was swift — and negative. So even as the court sought ways to limit federal regulation of business and markets, Roberts boldly created a majority to uphold the central provision of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in the midst of the 2012 campaign.
Court observers figured — rightly as it turned out — that Roberts would balance that move with the one he made on Tuesday: writing the opinion that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act and essentially freed the Republican-dominated South from the last vestiges of federal control of the region’s election laws. And then observers figured that once the Supreme Court had lurched to the right on voting rights, it would angle back on gay rights….Gay rights won Wednesday. Voting rights lost Tuesday. But in the Roberts era, big money tends to win every time

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