We’ve invested in the Supreme Court powers never imagined by the Framers. And when I say “we” I mostly mean progressives. The growth of the administrative state and the encroachment of federal law into every nook and cranny of local life has been a century-long project of the Left.It's possible that judicial usurpation goes back to Marbury v. Madison, and yet, however it has come to pass that nine philosopher kings matter, they do matter, and nomination battles will be consequential.
It should be no surprise that when we bequeath monarchical powers to nine — or eight — lawyers, the battle for succession to one of the nine thrones will be ugly. Indeed, it’s surprising it’s not uglier. We spend billions of dollars trying to pick a president of the United States, and in many respects the Supreme Court is now more powerful than the presidency. It’s certainly far, far, far less democratic. We appoint justices for life and many of their decisions cannot be overturned by the Congress, or the people, short of a constitutional convention.
The Left, which pays a lot of lip-service to the “people power” and democratic action, has given us these black-robed kings and queens. They shouldn’t be surprised when the game of thrones gets ugly. It’s their game.
Jonah Goldberg notes that elevating learned lawyers to the status of philosopher kings means picking a philosopher king matters. But those philosopher kings are not a Platonic ideal, they're an emergent phenomenon.