A national Grinnel College/Selzer poll released this week found nearly two-thirds of Americans agree that politics drives Supreme Court rulings. In fact, it was a rare area of bipartisan agreement: Democrats, Republicans, and independents all answered the same question in roughly the same way.
"This is a nightmare scenario for Chief Justice John Roberts, who has sought to protect the court's reputation as an apolitical institution," Grinnell College National Poll Director Peter Hanson said. "The court faces a public convinced that its decisions are about politics rather than the Constitution."
A recent Gallup poll also showed public attitudes toward the high court sliding to the lowest level since the pollster started asking the question a couple of decades ago.
It was against this backdrop that the Heritage Foundation hosted a notable event last night. The Washington Post reported:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell lauded Justice Clarence Thomas on Thursday night as a "legal titan" whose independence and courage are illustrated through his "jurisprudence on unborn life."
At face value, it's difficult to defend these circumstances. A conservative political group hosted an event for a conservative Supreme Court justice, who was in attendance for the celebration of himself. Congress' most powerful Republican official — a man who has personally spearheaded a years-long campaign to politicize the federal judiciary — not only delivered a keynote address, he also specifically praised the justice's work on a controversial issue that the Supreme Court will be considering in its next term.
Every time the high court considers abortion cases, McConnell said, "Justice Thomas writes a separate, concise opinion to cut through the 50-year tangle of made-up tests and shifting standards and calmly reminds everybody that the whole house of cards lacks a constitutional foundation." The audience at the Heritage Foundation applauded in approval.
Is it any wonder why public confidence in the high court's impartiality has waned?
A couple of weeks earlier, Justice Amy Coney Barrett tried to defend the Supreme Court's political impartiality — while speaking alongside McConnell, who rushed her onto the bench during last fall's presidential election as part of a brazenly political display, and who invited the justice to speak at a University of Louisville center that bears his name.
"My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks," Barrett said in her remarks.
Heaven forbid. Why would anyone dare to think such a thing?