The Single Best Guide I’ve Heard to the Supreme Court’s Rightward Shift

Produced by ‘The Ezra Klein Show’

In the past few weeks alone, the Supreme Courthas delivered a firestorm of conservative legal victories. States now have far less leeway to restrict gun permits. The right to abortion is no longer constitutionally protected. The Environmental Protection Agency has been kneecapped in its ability to regulate carbon emissions, and by extension, all executive branch agencies will see their power significantly diminished.

But to focus only on this particular Supreme Court term is to miss the bigger picture: In the past few decades, conservative court majorities have dragged this country’s laws to the right on almost every issue imaginable. Shelby County v. Holder gutted the Voting Rights Act and opened the door for states to pass restrictive voting laws. Rucho v. Common Cause limited the court’s ability to curb partisan gerrymandering. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission unleashed a torrent of campaign spending. Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 weakened unions. A whole slew of cases, including some decided on the shadow docket during the Covid-19 pandemic, undercut federal agencies’ power to help govern in an era of congressional gridlock. And that’s only a partial list.

[You can listen to this episode of “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

Kate Shaw is a law professor at Cardozo School of Law, a co-host of the legal podcast Strict Scrutiny and a former clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens. In this episode, she walks me through the most significant Supreme Court cases over the past 20 years, from the court’s decision to hand George W. Bush the presidency in 2000, to the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act, to the assertion of an individual’s right to bear arms.

Along the way, we discuss the right’s decades-long effort to transform American law from the bench, how Republican-appointed judges have consistently entrenched Republican political power, the interpretive bankruptcy of constitutional originalism, how the Warren Court radicalized the conservative legal movement, what might happen to decisions like Obergefell v. Hodges now that the court majority seems to be so comfortable throwing out precedent, what cases to watch in the Roberts Court’s next term and more.

You can listen to our whole conversation by following “The Ezra Klein Show” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts. View a list of book recommendations from our guests here.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

Credit…Cardozo Law School

“The Ezra Klein Show” is produced by Annie Galvin and Rogé Karma; fact-checking by Michelle Harris, Rollin Hu, Mary Marge Locker and Kate Sinclair; original music by Isaac Jones; mixing by Isaac Jones; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Our executive producer is Irene Noguchi. Special thanks to Kristin Lin, Kristina Samulewski, David Kaplan, Ian Millhiser, Aziz Rana and Kate Redburn.

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