The conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court this week struck down some socially liberal laws that had been in place for years. This once again highlights the deep divide between progressive and conservative America. Both currents try to implement their ideal image of America through the judiciary, and the Supreme Court is their main battleground.
Among other things, the court ruled that universities and colleges can no longer give priority to people of color, making it more difficult for black Americans in particular to get hired. In addition, the court vindicated a Christian web designer by ruling that she may refuse gay couples as clients on the basis of freedom of speech, and finally, conservative judges shot down a plan by the Biden administration to cancel student debt.
The rulings follow an equally startling decision last year, when the same conservative court reversed the nationwide right to abortion. President Biden lashed out unprecedentedly fiercely this week, labeling the highest court as “not normal” and arguing that the court is not interpreting the Constitution properly.
After decades of being reasonably balanced, following Donald Trump’s appointment of three conservative justices, the current Supreme Court has the most conservative composition in 90 years. Sixty-two percent of this court’s rulings fall in favor of a conservative-Christian values.
Conservative judges on the Court, such as Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are proponents of “originalism” and “textualism,” concepts that advocate for a literal interpretation of the United States Constitution. This interpretation is particularly popular among conservatives and maintains that according to the text of the Constitution, everyone is equal, and therefore no exceptions should be made based on race or social circumstances.
This directly contradicts what can be considered the heart of Democratic politics, which is the belief that the government should use its power to address social inequalities and uplift individuals in disadvantaged positions. Civil rights advocates view the recent rulings of the Supreme Court as erecting barriers based on race, against which their ancestors fought for decades. Meanwhile, influential conservative organizations applaud the rollback of affirmative action in higher education, stating,
“The decision is a triumphant return to the restoration of our compromised Constitution,” according to the chairman of the influential conservative political organization CPAC.
For conservative Americans, the years under President Obama and his right-hand man, Biden, were a horror. Same-sex marriage was legally recognized, and the first steps were taken towards shared bathrooms for transgender individuals. From a Christian perspective and in conservative media, an increasingly painted picture suggested that America would perish if liberal Democrats continued to have the upper hand.
Therefore, conservative organizations have been trying for years to exert their power through political appointments of judges, and thanks to Trump, they have succeeded with the appointment of three conservative judges to the Supreme Court. Even though Trump may have been a one-term president, his influence will be noticeable for at least a quarter of a century through the decisions of this court.
Calls to expand the court
The most recent rulings will likely reignite the debate about restructuring the Court. There has been ongoing discussion about expanding the court with more justices. Democratic Senator Tina Smith from Minnesota tweeted yesterday,
“People don’t have to live in constant fear of the Supreme Court. We can’t sit idly by while these justices carry out the wishes of far-right organizations. Expand the court.”
Currently, the Supreme Court consists of nine justices, but this has not always been the case as the number is not specified in the United States Constitution. The Biden administration could propose appointing more justices, but at this moment, Biden is not showing any inclination to do so.