The U.S. Supreme Court is as important as ever in the lives of Americans. Contrary to the image-enhancing claims of independence that many of its members claim, however, the Court’s current supermajority has transformed it into a powerful political institution that wages ideological war meant to return the nation to a previous period, at the same time denying rights to millions. The “Stench” of Politics: Polarization and Worldview on the Supreme Court opens a window into the Supreme Court that helps us to understand the institution and its rulings.
At the heart of this analysis is worldview, a phenomenon that every person, including Supreme Court justices, possesses. Whether someone’s worldview is “fixed” or “fluid” affects who they are, what they believe and what they do. In addition, interpreting the Constitution as an “originalist” or “living constitutionalist” often dictates case outcomes. By applying these and other constructs to the Supreme Court, the book reveals how the once-revered institution has evolved into one whose majority not only has neglected its commitment to the inscription on its own building, “Equal Justice Under Law,” but is also determined to remake both the law and the nation.
Joseph Russomanno is professor in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
Foreword by Rodney A. Smolla
Part I: Divided Worlds
Chapter 1: America: Polarized and Politicized
Chapter 2: The Court: Polarized and Politicized
Part II: The Court, Weaponized
Chapter 3: Voting Rights
Chapter 4: Gun Rights
Chapter 5: Religious Liberty
Chapter 6: Abortion Rights
Part III: Principles and Processes
Chapter 7: “Equal Justice Under Law”
About the Author
Russomanno provides an interesting analysis of the effects of polarization in terms of judicial philosophy on current members of the US Supreme Court and how they decide cases. The author’s main thesis is that this polarization makes the Supreme Court more politicized and is problematic for democracy. The book is well written and thoroughly researched with excellent source material and covers the most important topics currently on the Supreme Court docket. Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty and professionals.
The US Supreme Court as a supposedly apolitical institution is so riven by partisan politics; hence, to many Americans, it has increasingly become a quagmire of irrelevance. Why and how has the Court lost its sense of institutional raison d’etre in America as a liberal democracy? Joseph Russomanno, a noted media law scholar, incisively examines various systemic challenges confronting the Court. No less important, he proposes ideas for how to meet those challenges. Russomanno’s cogently analytical and remarkably readable book couldn’t come at a more pivotal moment in the Supreme Court’s history. What a sobering but critical look at “the court of last resort” in the United States.
Russomanno has written a powerful, deeply researched argument that the current U.S. Supreme Court has become a ‘polarized and politicized’ institution, so ‘weaponized by the political right’ that ‘the Court's legitimacy hangs in the balance.’ The depth of his research and range of his sources are evident in scores of endnotes, while his writing is clear and persuasive. This is an essential book for anyone who wants to understand the current Court and its origins in the political and ideological polarization of the U.S. today.
It has become commonplace for analysts of the Supreme Court to describe its justices as ‘politicians in robes.’ What has been missing, however, is a framework for understanding justices as political actors. In this highly readable and compelling examination of the Supreme Court, Joseph Russomanno fills that void. Russomanno applies the latest research on polarization and its psychological roots to interpret the worldviews of the Supreme Court's liberal and conservative members. Describing the Court's conservatives as fixed-originalists and its liberals as fluid-living constitutionalists, Russomanno shows how the justices reason from their core values to judicial outcomes. In doing so, he punctures the sanctified air jurists supposedly breathe, especially the allegedly value-neutral framework of 'originalism,' by making clear how much the Justices' decisions flow from their political, ideological, and worldview-based commitments. A terrific, incisive, and sobering analysis of the High Court.