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Increased politicization of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, a cornerstone of American governance, ensures alignment with founding principles. Its role has expanded due to legislative and executive branch weaknesses, leading to concerns about unelected justices making impactful decisions. The intertwining of politics and law further complicates the court's function, making justices' selections more politically influenced.

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Video transcript

- In your mind, why is the Supreme Court important? - Well the Supreme Court is important for the original founders' reasons or that, it was like all American institutions there were ideas the founders had and then John Marshall, an important justice, created the office by the practice of the office and it is important because the court is where America's thorniest questions go to be resolved. They haven't been resolved in the executive branch and the legislative branch and so the court has to take them up and that is where the court goes back to those first principles. Again, why we study American history. What exactly was the outline for how the country is supposed to behave and are we staying within that outline and those series of ideals? It goes back to the very beginning ingredients of America. So, the court is a test always of whether what we're doing now is in keeping with what we were supposed to do at the founding of the country. The reason it has become so important recently is that the court ends up doing a lot more than it was ever supposed to do because of weakness in the executive branch and the legislative branch and so a lot of people are now looking to the court to solve problems that should actually be handled by the people's representatives. The judges are not elected. They are in there for life at the Supreme Court through the process of the president with advice and consent by the Senate but they are not elected and this was supposed to be a republic in which the elected representatives were the ones making the laws. But we've shifted away from that and so the court is now making decisions that can affect people's lives and a generation and not be changed as easily as say a piece of legislation which can be vetoed, amended, superseded by another piece of legislation. It's really permanent changes in the American life. - So my understanding is that the Supreme Court should be above politics. To what degree is that actually the case? - Well the Supreme Court had lots of... There have been times where the Supreme Court when Andrew Jackson was president he tried to use the Supreme Court to do what he wanted it to do and Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to change the functioning of the court because it kept knocking down all the things he wanted to do. We've had moments where there have been these spasms where presidents have tried to get the court to do what they wanted. But in general, it was the American tradition that the justices were supposed to be picked if they were of good character and if they were of sound legal mind. If they had views on the manners related to the Constitution that were sort of sound legally. But their politics weren't supposed to be so important. What has happened is like so much in modern American life is there has been an intertwining of politics and the legal profession so that now when presidents run for office they say, elect me so that I can put in our kinds of judges. Which means that the kind of judge you pick helps you with your voters and if your voters want a very specific kind of ideological judge, then the more ideological the judge that you pick, the greater your voters will be happy about you and that'll keep you in office. And that is true of the senators advising and consenting on these decisions and true of the presidents who pick them. Well that means that the people who go into the office into the Supreme Court I should say end up being more political than in the past. There was a period where when an American president would pick a justice, that justice very often would rule in a way that was totally the opposite of what the members of that president's party wanted. It happened repeatedly in American life and that was a symbol people thought of the idea that these issues before the court were being weighed on their merits and had nothing to do with the ideological views of the judge weighing them. Now, where you sit on a particular issue is often determined by where you came from politically.