Home » UK political science professor Justin Wedeking on the Supreme Court and politics

UK political science professor Justin Wedeking on the Supreme Court and politics

The following is excerpted from a recent Question and Answer session prior to today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Accountable Care Act with Justin Wedeking, assistant professor, Department of Political Science, University of Kentucky:

I was just wondering if there could be any political ramifications for President Obama of a Supreme Court decision striking down or upholding the law?
“Yes, there is a good chance that the Court’s decision will hold political ramifications for President Obama — specifically with the upcoming election. If the Court upholds the decision, then it will be viewed by many as a major victory for the President, since the healthcare legislation is widely considered his signature achievement thus far in office. Conversely, if the Court strikes down all or part of the legislation, then many will view it as a major defeat for the President, weakening him at a vital time heading into the fall campaign.”

How do court decisions play into politics in issues like this?

“While many people may not like the Court to interject themselves into these political issues, in the past Court decisions have played a regular part in politics. The Court has over the years decided some of our nation’s most important and pressing social issues, such as abortion, the death penalty, affirmative action, school desegregation, gun rights, school prayer, and it played a major role in the 2000 Presidential election.

“The reason why the Court decides these issues is simple: someone asks them to. In effect, while many people prefer the “elected” branches of government to make these important decisions, when the Court reviews a law passed by the other branches it is essentially exercising it’s check on those two branches.

“Moreover, Americans generally have a positive attitude of the Court meaning the Court enjoys what scholars call a “positivity bias” that enables the Court’s legitimacy to remain largely unchanged even in the face of making an unpopular decision. For example, after the Bush v. Gore decision in 2000, the public’s perception of the Court as a legitimate institution hardly changed. In this sense, the Court draws upon a deep resovoir of “good will” that it uses to maintain a high degree of legitimacy amongst the public.”