The Supreme Court and Politics

I've been too busy this week to geek out and follow the play by play coverage - on multiple channels! - of the oral arguments before the US Supreme Court on the health care law.

But I was very happy to see my friend, Mark Byrnes, took the time on his blog to put what is happening into historical political perspective. He walks us through the politics of the Dred Scott decision, and cautions that any "victory" for one side or the other in the case could be but prelude to a political backlash.

"The Dred Scott decision was a pyrrhic victory for southerners. Three years later, the Republicans proved the "funeral sermon" was premature--they won control of the Presidency and both Houses of Congress. The case produced not an end to the debate, but rather a political backlash that ended with the destruction of the very institution of slavery that southerners were trying so desperately to save."

Screen shot 2012-03-27 at 10.07.08 PMWhat made Mark's post particularly resonant for me was having just (again, on the treadmill at the gym) caught the end of a surprisingly candid C-SPAN documentary about the Supreme Court.

At the 1:18:20 mark of the video, Chief Justice John Roberts has this to say about his predecessor, Chief Justice Tawney, who wrote the Court's opinion in the Dred Scott case:

"Right next to [the portrait of John Marshall] is Roger Tawney, the most unfortunate of my predecessors, the author of the Dred Scott decision. And you understand that he saw this great problem in the country of slavery, and he was going to solve it. And this is how he was going to solve it. Tremendously misguided, and it injured the Court for generations to come. So that help informs how you look at your own job."

God bless America.


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