“The consequences for … popular democracy could be dire.” Those ominous words from Eric Levitz in the New York Magazine are enough to chill one to the bone after a year of alleged insurrections and ongoing plans for a conservative coup. Indeed, the magazine itself has disclosed a Republican strategy to actually kill Americans with Covid-19. So what is now the existential threat to democracy? It’s a new Gallup poll showing that Chief Justice Roberts is the most popular political figure in public life.
The apoplectic response of many in the media was notable with liberals asking “what’s wrong with you, America?” Yet, none was more revealing than the New York Magazine in explaining the reason. After all, it would not seem to take much to be the most popular in a class of public officials widely despised by the public. The three highest ranking congressional leaders remain highly unpopular (Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are at 48, 40, and 48 percent disapproval, respectively).
President Joe Biden has a 51 percent disapproval rating — only slightly above Vice President Kamala Harris’ 54 percent disapproval rating. Conversely, at 53 percent approval, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell shows that these polls are hardly a measure of charisma.
So why is the Roberts’ 60 percent approval rating so crushing for democracy? Because, Levitz explained,
“If the Court’s right-wing majority finds that it can continually push the boundaries of conservative judicial activism without undermining its own popular legitimacy, then the consequences for progressivism and popular democracy could be dire.”
Unpack that line for a second. First of all, Levitz is saying that the goals of the left would be scuttled if the Court or its members are popular. For over a year, many in the media and Congress have launched unrelenting attacks on the Court and pushed an agenda to pack the Court to create an instant liberal majority. They know that court packing is widely detested by the public (as it once was by President Biden and many on the left). In order to achieve such a goal, the justices must be demonized like much else in our age of rage. But it is not working if 60 percent of the public actually like the Chief Justice.
It is also worth noting that the stated goal is “popular democracy.” The term is often associated with “direct democracy” where citizens have unfiltered and direct say in government decisions. It was the model expressly rejected by the Framers in favor of our system of representative democracy.
In Federalist 10, Madison wrote:
Pure democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
Instead, he created a system by which public passions could be filtered or expressed through a smaller group of representatives, officials who could temper and refine popular impulse.
In addition to our system of representative democracy, we have institutions designed to resist popular impulse or demands. The United States Supreme Court is the principal example. Justices were given life tenure to insulate them from such pressures and intimidation. The court is designed to stand against majoritarian demands and what Madison called “the tyranny of the majority.”
That system has served us well. It was the countermajoritarian role that allowed the Court to strike down bans on interracial marriage, decriminalize homosexuality, and protect the rights of the accused. Those were unpopular acts but the Court followed the Constitution rather than the polls.
Levitz assumes that, if the justices or the institution were unpopular, it would compel different outcomes or changes on the Court. Ethical jurists on both the left and the right reject that notion as the very antithesis of the rule of law.
The left once celebrated the independence of the Court in ordering relief that was denied or blocked in Congress like desegregation. After Brown v. Board of Education, political groups responded with the same anger of Levitz with “Impeach [Chief Justice] Earl Warren” billboards.
This year, extreme groups like Demand Justice have run their own billboards targeting justices like Stephen Breyer to try to push them to retire. With the support of many law professors, they are also demanding that Congress pack the Court to create an instant liberal majority. As in the 1960s, Democratic politicians are issuing direct warnings to the justices to rule “correctly,” or face consequences. Professors have declared that “our Constitution isn’t working” because they are not seeing the outcomes that they deem to be correct. Senators and commentators are now calling for “revolution” and “rebellion” to achieve what cannot be achieved in a system that has worked for over two centuries to preserve stability and freedom for our country. As many on the left attack those who encouraged “insurrection,” such rhetoric is perfectly fine in pursuit of a progressive cause.
After all, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. asked why we should preserve an institution if it is not going to vote consistently with her views and those of the Democratic Party: “How much does the current structure benefit us? And I don’t think it does.”
That brings us back to Roberts and his pesky popularity. You cannot achieve a revolution without people getting really angry. Yet, despite a steady drumbeat in the media, it is not working. Indeed, the Gallup poll shows the diminishing power of the mainstream media, which has largely abandoned half of the country with its embrace of “advocacy journalism.” (Levitz is one of the writers who previously denounced those reporters who have been critical of Biden and openly editorializing “against the White House’s policy.”) The result is that all of that advocacy journalism is just “singing to the choir” — independents and conservatives left a long time ago as our media have become more of a series of hardened silos for echo journalism.
With the courts and the public not responding, it is hard to bring about the “revolution” promised by members and commentators. You need an angry populace to tear down institutions that stand in the way. You need to destroy the legitimacy of the court itself. Levitz put it best: “In other words: Even if the Court overreaches on abortion and forfeits its popular support, the conservative judicial project is likely to endure. And given Roberts’s current poll numbers, it’s not even clear that Roe’s invalidation will durably erode public reverence for the judiciary.”
Putting aside the notion of “overreaching” by a court limiting its own authority in favor of the states, the problem is that all of the attacks in the media have not “eroded public reverence for the judiciary.” The scary thought for Levitz is that, if conservative justices are respected, there is little hope for forcing the Court to yield to demands of “progressivism and popular democracy.” Of course, it really does not matter if Roberts is the most popular among unpopular choices. As the iconic liberal statesman Adlai Stevenson once said, “My definition of a free society is a society where it is safe to be unpopular.”
202 thoughts on ““Dire” for Democracy? New York Mag Columnist Decries the Popularity of Chief Justice Roberts”
anonymous:you ALMOST repeated,verbatim, what I said two days ago. (that we are a constituionsl REPUBLIC or maube a REPUBLICAN democracy. Tour slight modification (that we are a representative democracy) is auintessentially the definition of a REPUBLIC: i.e., ruled by ELECTED represensrives and leader….
ATS thinks he is smart. He isn’t. He’s a troll.
He plays word games continuously when he is not lying. Apparently he’s been banned again. That is why he appears with new icons and new names, but for now his wings have been clipped.
It is interesting that liberals decry Chief Justice John Roberts for leading a Supreme Court conservative majority when Roberts has often frustrated the legal opinions of the conservatives on the court. That said, Roberts has done this nation a hugely significant disservice by allowing the court to avoid taking up the most important cases of this nation’s history involving the fraudulent election of this President. For that, Roberts deserves all the incoming flak from the right as his term proceeds.
The REAL insurrection and destruction of the democracy comes from these pathetic hypocritical corrupt politicians trying to breach the co-equal branches barrier for their own political and personal benefit – ALL politicians doing this are the REAL insurrectionists and should be punished for such acts of sedition
If the conservative majority had wanted to hear the cases, Roberts could not have prevented them from granting cert. It only takes 4 justices to grant cert. Biden wasn’t elected via fraud. Trump lost, fair and square, because most voters wanted Trump out of office.
However 75% of America lives in the 20 most populous states. Which means that one quarter of America has more Senate votes than the other three quarters. At face value, this model does not resemble a democracy.
How is that different than when the Constitution was ratified? With out research, I would guess Boston, Philly, and NYC took in 90% of the population. Our govt structure is crafted to spread out the geographic representation.
You also fail to realize what the goal was.
To form a union that represented ALL of the co-signers. The goal was to UNITE all 13 “states” with an entity to do things the States individually could not do. International trade(tarriffs), and defense being two big pieces.
The concept was not new They already had passed the articles of confederation. Something that was falling short of meeting their goals.
Go ahead a continue to point out all the features and benefits, while misrepresenting them a flaws.
Way short of historical knowledge
Except for rulings like “Kelo v. City of New London” and “Terry v. Ohio” – rulings that required constitutional amendments.
So Roberts is popular? I guess nobody asked me.
Why not nuke the Russian troops in the satellite images?
I want power, too. I have some household appliances that I would like to use.
Justices of the Supreme Court are required to take an oath to support the Constitution. The Constitution is nothing but its “manifest tenor.” Even an infinitesimal deviation from the “manifest tenor” of the Constitution is a crime of high office against the people, the beneficiaries of the Constitution.
Chief Justice John Roberts should have been impeached and convicted for, as but one example, incoherently and illicitly commingling the definitions of the words “state” and “federal” to support the “exchanges” in the wholly unconstitutional Affordable Care Act.
Chief Justice Roger B. Taney immediately informed Abraham Lincoln that his order to suspend habeas corpus was unconstitutional. Chief Justice John Roberts should have immediately struck down, in one fell swoop, the entire unconstitutional American welfare state when he assumed office.
That John Roberts does not like Constitutional rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities, does not nullify those maximal rights, freedoms, privileges and immunities; his corruption, communist bias and subjectivity does.
The first item on the list of any new Republican held Congress must be mass-action impeachment of the treasonous members of the judicial branch, beginning with the juridically heinous, high criminal, John Roberts.
Is there a particular Supreme Court decision that you object to when you say the entire American welfare state is unconstitutional? Thanks.
Go read your Constitution.
“You can’t handle the truth.”
– Colonel Jessup
Article 1, Section 8, provides Congress the power to tax ONLY for “…general Welfare…,” omitting and, thereby, excluding any power to tax for individual welfare, specific welfare, redistribution of wealth or charity. Clearly, “…general Welfare…” is infrastructure and consists of roads, air ports, post office, telephone, water, sewer, electricity, trash collection, etc., commodities and services that facilitate endeavor generally so that ALL WELL PROCEED. Social Security, Medicare, Obamacare, etc., serve very small portions of the general population. The same article provides Congress the power to regulate ONLY money, the “flow” of commerce, and land and naval Forces. Additionally, the 5th Amendment right to private property is not qualified by the Constitution and is, therefore, absolute, allowing Congress no power to claim or exercise dominion over private property, the sole exception being the power to “take” private property for public use. Congress cannot order a private property enterprise to hire any particular person and what to pay, what to charge for rent, or whom to rent or sell a private property to. When it does, it makes the property public.
Government exists, under the Constitution and Bill of Rights, to provide maximal freedom to individuals while it is severely limited and restricted to merely facilitating that maximal freedom of individuals through the provision of security and infrastructure.
The entire communistic American welfare state is unconstitutional including, but not limited to, matriculation affirmative action, grade-inflation affirmative action, employment affirmative action, quotas, welfare, food stamps, minimum wage, rent control, social services, forced busing, public housing, utility subsidies, WIC, SNAP, TANF, HAMP, HARP, TARP, HHS, HUD, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Labor, Energy, Obamacare, Social Security, Social Security Disability, Social Security Supplemental Income, Medicare, Medicaid, “Fair Housing” laws, “Non-Discrimination” laws, etc.
If rights and freedoms and restrictions on government are not absolute, then rights and freedoms and restrictions on government don’t exist, and America persists under a dictatorship.
George, you do know, don’t you, that “Colonel Jessup” is a fictional character from the film “A Few Good Men”, who was willing to allow 2 Marines to be convicted of murder, and probably executed, for following his order to administer a “Code Red” to a Marine who, it turns out, had a congenital heart condition that made it difficult for hiim to keep up with his fellow Marines. The reason for the “Code Red” is that the Marine who was murdered reported the abuse he suffered outside of the chain of command after being denied a request for a transfer from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I don’t understand your fascination with this fictional character. He only confessed to ordering the “Code Red” after being goaded into it by Tom Cruise’s character. He was a liar and coward and is not noble nor admirable in any respect. Why don’t you see that?
I’ve missed you, Dear. Happy New Year. We should share a toast on NYE.
Helvering v. Davis (1937) extended the general welfare clause to grant Congress unenumerated powers as long as Congress determined that in their judgement those powers promoted the general welfare. Madison’s warning against this proved prescient as this opinion eventually paved the way for a massive and counterproductive welfare state.
“Helvering v. Davis” was and remains unconstitutional amendment, and those traitors should have been thrown in prison, if not Drawn and Quartered, for challenging the authority of the sovereign, the people through their elected representatives, all of whom persist under the absolute dominion of the Constitution. There is a process for amendment. The judicial branch has no power to legislate, modify legislation or modify legislation through “interpretation.” Legislating from the bench is a crime of high office. The judicial branch is distinctly not the legislative branch, and every last one of its members must be impeached and convicted for abuse and usurpation of power, and for perpetrating that egregious transgression.
“…courts…must…declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void.”
“…men…do…what their powers do not authorize, [and] what they forbid.”
“[A] limited Constitution … can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing … To deny this would be to affirm … that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.”
– Alexander Hamilton
I agree. The “general welfare” line was a restriction not a broadening of powers.
It was intended to prohibit specifically targeted legislation intended to benefit narrow interests.
Not sure if you went to a law school, if so I’d ask for a refund .
The unites states of America is a constutional republic not some form of democracy.
You are brilliant.
I enjoyed reading your comment.
Current SCOTUS Represents Minority Rule
We have the court we have because every state has 2 senators regardless of population.
However 75% of America lives in the 20 most populous states. Which means that one quarter of America has more Senate votes than the other three quarters. At face value, this model does not resemble a democracy.
Consequently our Supreme Court represents a country where Whites in less populated regions have a disproportionate voice in national politics. For this reason the court is packed with Federalists committed to gun rights, business interests and abortion restrictions. These principles are largely out of step with most Americans.
But Professor Turley is fond of pretending this court stands firmly with the Constitution. ‘And if that makes the court unpopular then so be it’. This view embodies the sham idea that Federalist judges are somehow the legitimate intellectual heirs of our Founding Father’s. What a bunch of nonsense!
Are you high or just retarded?
“Consequently our Supreme Court represents a country where Whites in less populated regions have a disproportionate voice in national politics.”
George Wallace couldn’t have said it better. Just change the color!
Just like Civil War days, Democrats continue to think of people of color as ignorant, weak, slaves to be owned and told how to live. We do not need anyone, never mind latte drinking Leftists, telling us what to think when we see with our own eyes how our nation is as broken as Chicago.
This Chicago 911 Dispatcher should run Chicago
ALL HELL HAS BROKEN LOOSE’: Chicago’s mayor under fire for soaring crime
This is not a Black problem, a white problem, a Democratic problem, a Republican problem, a Latino problem, this is an all-hands-on-deck problem and everyone within Chicago should be fuelled up — and that’s why I’m taking a stand,” he explained.
In my opinion and fact, the blood is on her hands,” Chicago 911 dispatcher Keith A. Thornton, Jr. said. “Every child and every youth and adult and elderly person that is shot, killed, pulled out of their vehicle because of carjackings with AK-47s, that is on her hands.”
“This mayor does not care about Chicago police officers, period,” Thornton said.
“She doesn’t care about any first responders. She don’t care about the damn city,” he said. “Doesn’t matter if you’re white, black, Asian, Hispanic, other. Straight, gay. Democrat or Republican. She doesn’t even care about her city workers. All that lady cares about is her f—ing self,” Thornton said. “And I pray you’re watching this because you’re a disgrace. And I’m tired of it, and your city is tired of it.
I repeat from earlier:
We are a very diverse nation that offers many possibilities for how we each choose to live our lives. One of the most common and stark differences among those choices is unban vs. rural, city vs. country. The two are about as different as you can get, with one generally embracing strong authoritarian government the other giving individual freedom, accountability and responsibility their highest priority. At present it seems that a growing majority of people in our country are living in urban settings. That is their choice, but why should they have the right to foist the way they want to be governed on those opting to live lives with more individual freedom? That would be an example of “tyranny of the majority”, and ironically, because urban liberals are always clamoring for more diversity, would make our country less diverse.
“One of the most common and stark differences among those choices is unban vs. rural, city vs. country. The two are about as different as you can get, with one generally embracing strong authoritarian government the other giving individual freedom, accountability and responsibility their highest priority.”
From Jefferson’s pen to your ear:
“Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts He has made His peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue.
While we have land to labor then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a work-bench, or twirling a distaff….For the general operations of manufacture, let our workshops remain in Europe….The mobs of great cities add just so much to the support of pure government, as sores do to the strength of the human body.”
~Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1781)
The next great divide isn’t political or racial; it’s geographical as the Sage at Monticello knew way back then.
Also, a few questions:
Would it be fair if a political party getting 51% of the popular votes gets to dictate 100% of the time how we should be governed?
In a pure democracy what is there to stop that from happening?
Would you want that to be the case when you’re on the side of the 49%?
Exactly how did the Reconstruction Ammendmets get ratified? How did Civil rights legislation get passed?
If you were something other stupid, as in, unable to learn. You would have just a passing brush of history to know your talking points are meaningless and contradicted by historical facts.
“For this reason the court is packed with Federalists committed to gun rights, business interests and abortion restrictions. These principles are largely out of step with most Americans.”
– Aninny (attribution Mespo)
The U.S. Constitution, the United States and the actual American people are irrevocably “committed” to gun rights; avail yourself of the 2nd Amendment.
“Business interests” are what the Constitution exists to facilitate – freedom, free enterprise, “the pursuit of happiness,” and no regulation beyond money, commerce and land and naval Forces – labor is free to accept or reject a job.
Abortion is neither provided nor denied, is not addressed by the Constitution, and is a matter of code and/or statute – abortion may be codified legal or illegal.
It is a preposterous contradiction in terms, an oxymoron, to claim that individuals who oppose the U.S. Constitution are “Americans,” Supreme Court Justices must swear an oath to support the Constitution.
“Most Americans” are eminent and abundant beneficiaries of the principles of the Constitution.
The left hates it when the people act in a fashion that they think is best for society. The left doesn’t want democracy. The left wants a dictatorship and power.
The only thing this article means, is they are continuing the the same agenda.
Shaping the narrative. It is a constant focus of all these stories. shaping and advancing the narrative. Feed talking points to the blog trolls and other leftist that have no abililty to think for themselves
This article like most of them is narrative. That and validating the masses anger, and sense of urgency to address the crises of the day. (Leftist can not govern, they must hide their intentions behind some “emergency” that has to be addressed NOW>
(that’s one of the signs of online hackers, urgency, Think about that when you hear that ________legislation must be passed by_______. )
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