Nearly half a year after Donald Trump left the White House, the Republican Party remains loyal to him and his political style. But as ever, U.S. politics can change quickly—especially if President Joe Biden should remain popular, Democrats should do well in next year’s midterm elections, and Trumpism should ultimately seem to hinder the Republicans from taking back power. Yet the former president’s substantial effect on the American judiciary is certain to be long-lasting, including at the Supreme Court, which recently finished its latest term. Trump’s three appointments to the Court—Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett—along with hundreds of other federal judges Trump installed—will shape U.S. law for decades. How are they beginning to change the country today?

James Romoser—the editor of the website SCOTUSblog, which provides news and analysis about the Supreme Court—says “there’s no question the Court is more conservative than it has been in generations, with six Republican appointees now in control.” This past term saw their influence on issues as diverse as state voting restrictions, religious liberty, and the interests of businesses, and Romoser says the upcoming term promises to be more dramatic, with “blockbuster cases” on abortion, gun rights, and perhaps even affirmative action. At the same time, he notes that “there’s tension within the conservative majority about how far to go” on these issues and “when is the right time for the majority to wield its power in the most muscular way.” For all their conservative commitments, Romoser argues, many of these justices are playing a long game—trying to avoid the kind of public backlash that could threaten the Court’s legitimacy with the American public and maybe even lead to radical structural changes that might seem inconceivable today.


Graham Vyse: Did the Supreme Court shift significantly to the right this year?

James Romoser: There’s a lot of discussion and debate about that question, and the answer is somewhat in the eye of the beholder. It’s clear the six-justice conservative majority was quite dominant this term, and in some cases it adopted an incrementalist—perhaps minimalist—approach, deciding cases along very narrow lines and reaching consensus with the liberal justices. In other cases, the conservative majority really flexed its muscles, moving the law to the right in fairly dramatic ways.

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