Usually seen as a conservative, Roberts stunned everybody, especially the other three conservative justices, by providing the fifth vote for upholding President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. He also wrote the majority opinion, using language and reasoning that made many wonder whether he really thought justification for the act could be found in the Constitution. Was he perhaps playing a little political game, hoping to avoid the court becoming a campaign issue?
Will he now revert to his conservative ideology? Or will he become as unpredictable as Kennedy? The answer to that question matters to all of us a great deal, whichever judicial ideology we happen to prefer.
The court has some very big issues on its agenda this term, including cases on several civil rights issues, among them affirmative action and gay marriage. It might hear a challenge to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and it is possible the justices will revisit the infamous Kelo decision that eviscerated property rights. It might be nice to determine whether we now have four justices or three who take the Constitution’s words seriously, one justice or two who will delight in clouding our minds.
Either Obama or a newly elected President Romney will probably have one or two Supreme Court appointments in the next four years. Given how evenly divided the court is now, those appointments will likely set the court’s direction, which will affect us all for decades to come.
That would be a nice subject for Obama and Romney to debate, don’t you think? Too bad it didn’t come up in Wednesday’s session devoted to domestic issues. Two debates are left, and the one with a town hall format will cover both foreign and domestic issues. Perhaps an audience member will be smart enough to seek an answer.