The Constitution and laws have not been sufficient by themselves to stop political leaders from undermining our liberal, republican democracy. Thus far, the Supreme Court has generally done a good job of stopping unconstitutional behavior. Even so, it can make mistakes. The “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy versus Ferguson (1896) that effectively legalized racial discrimination for many decades is the most obvious example. Supreme Courts can also become politicized, as they recently have in Venezuela and Poland. It can happen here too – President Roosevelt attempted to pack the Supreme Court in 1937. Moreover, leaders worldwide have found ways to ignore their courts and legislatures or at least bend them to their will.
Image: Supreme Court.
Excerpted from Political Trust & Distrust, Part 2 of 2.