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The Supermajority - How the Supreme Court Divided America

In The Supermajority: How the Supreme Court Divided America, Brennan Center President Michael Waldman examines the most consequential Supreme Court term in decades and argues that the Court overreached. Its ruling in Bruen radically loosened gun safety laws amid an epidemic of mass shootings. West Virginia v. EPA hobbled the government’s ability to fight climate change and other environmental threats. And in Dobbs, the Court revoked the constitutional protection for abortion rights promised by Roe v. Wade and Casey for nearly 50 years. In these rulings, the supermajority relied on “originalism,” a new, extreme, and deeply flawed method of interpreting the Constitution.

Timed to the 2022–2023 term opinions, The Supermajority offers a preview of the term’s major cases on voting and affirmative action, as well as proposals for reform, all written with the knowledge and insight of an expert Court observer. Waldman also delves into the scandals of the term, like the leaked Dobbs opinion and the revelations that Virginia Thomas, Justice Clarence Thomas’s wife, was involved in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Waldman also provides important background on the pipeline created to fill federal court benches with conservatives — helpful context for the scandal now swirling around Justice Thomas and the travel and other gifts paid for by GOP megadonor Harlan Crow. Justice Thomas’s wife was revealed as part of the bid to overturn the election, and justices publicly turned on each other, highlighting the Court’s deep division.

Waldman shows that the 2021–22 term isn’t the first time the Supreme Court has overreached and that it has provoked fierce backlash each time. The Dred Scott decision helped cause the Civil War, a reactionary Court blocked federal programs and reforms during the Progressive Era and New Deal, and the Warren Court’s liberal rulings provoked fierce opposition.

Throughout The Supermajority, Waldman grounds the Supreme Court and its history in politics and the ways that public opinion, elected officials, and the parties influence the Court. And he offers political solutions like term limits to the problems caused when nine Americans have jobs for life and too much power.

Michael Waldman is president and CEO of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law, a nonpartisan law and policy institute. An expert on the constitution and the courts, Waldman served on President Biden’s commission on the Supreme Court. He is the author of The Fight to Vote and The Second Amendment: A Biography. He was director of speechwriting during the Clinton administration. He comments widely in the media on law and policy.

 

 

 

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The Supermajority

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Michael appeared on Armchair Expert to discuss how the Supreme Court shapes policy, the concept of originalism, and how extremism influences rulings.

“Michael Waldman delivers a terrific if chilling account of how conservatives hijacked US democracy. . . . His new book about the conservative supermajority which dominates the supreme court is written with the verve of great campaign oratory.”

The Guardian

“A damning account of a Supreme Court gone wildly activist in shredding the Constitution.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Anyone trying to grasp how just nine unelected justices with lifetime tenure could completely upend American life must read this important book.”

— Jane Mayer, Chief Washington Correspondent, The New Yorker

“[The Supreme Court] has set the country back on voting rights, reproductive rights, gun safety and racial justice, with more damage possibly to come. This compelling book tells the story of this critical moment in the long struggle for a better, more equitable country.”

— Eric Holder, Former Attorney General

“A call to action as much as it is a history of the Supreme Court, [Waldman’s] book carries a strong warning for the conservative justices who thus far have been able to carry the day.”

Financial Times