Is Obama’s statement on “unprecedented” rulings unprecedented? No.

Yesterday, President Obama said: “I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress”. He also apparently added that the Supreme Court is “unelected”.

Republican writers have been attacking him for this, laughing at how stupid this statement is. After all, Supreme Court Justice is by design an unelected position, and to complain about this is to complain about the whole system. More to the point, it is not in the least unprecedented for the Court to overturn a law passed by Congress. That’s what it’s there for.

So, why did Obama say that? Republicans would have you believe it’s because he’s an idiot, and a sham Constitutional lawyer. But they are, of course, wrong.

This statement of Obama’s is calculated for the ears of low-information voter. The people who don’t pay much attention to politics, or have much knowledge of the system. The statement is calibrated to inflame animosity among this demographic towards the Supreme Court. (Which, by the by, indicates he’s concerned they’re going to overturn it.)

Now, a cynic would say the President is lying to stupid people to win their votes. But this is an unduly bleak way of putting it. As I have said, merely because a person is not well-informed about the political system does not mean that person is stupid. And both sides try to court the low-information vote. Indeed, when any part of the political system is not presently working to the advantage of one party, that party will demonize that part of the system, and the other will praise it. Yet, when circumstances change, and the party that had benefited now suffers from this part of the system, the situation will be reversed. This happens frequently with the filibuster.

In other words, this is a non-story, Obama is not an idiot, and you Republicans will just have to think of something else. Just another day in politics.


  1. I thought Obama was taking a shot at Republican rhetoric about judicial activism, and reiterating that the bill was in fact passed by a filibuster-proof super-majority in the Senate. To hear Republicans talk about it, you’d think the bill hadn’t been passed by a majority of congress at all.

    1. You’re right. I wonder what the biggest majority-passed law ever to be overturned by the Court is. I should look that up.

      You make a good point, and it’s another example of what I’m talking about: Republicans make it sound like Congress passing a law is a corrupt, dirty and unfair thing, when really it’s just the system at work.

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