Gene Sperling

Recent Articles

Does the Supreme Court Matter?

An exchange on the significance of the courts in the achievement of civil rights.

H ow important is the Supreme Court to the advancement of individual rights? Very important, many would contend, when the people whose rights are being advanced lack political power. Our constitutional democracy rests, after all, on the notion that people disdained and disfavored by the majority can still find justice before an independent Supreme Court. Some critics and historians, however, have always downplayed the Court's role. They argue that progress apparently flowing from Court decisions would have come eventually, or even sooner, through the political process, and that reform might been more effective or better crafted if the elected branches had brought it about. Much of this criticism has come from those on the right who condemn the Supreme Court protections of individual rights as "judicial activism." In a different vein, some on the left see the Court as an elitist institution and view grass-roots politics as the true source of social progress. In "Constitutional Politics...