The conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, which recently overturned the Roe v. Wade protection for abortion rights and banned affirmative action, is the result of a combination of political factors and historical circumstances that have favored Republicans.
Historical background: The longest-serving member of the current court, Clarence Thomas, was confirmed in 1991 when Republicans had won the popular vote for president in seven of the previous ten election cycles.
* In the eight presidential elections since then, Republicans have won the popular vote only once.
* However, two Republican presidents who lost the popular vote, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, were able to appoint the five justices who, alongside Thomas, make up the current 6-3 conservative supermajority owing to their victories in the Electoral College.
Key players: The conservative supermajority on the court exists largely due to the three conservative justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.
* Other factors contributing to the current supermajority on the court include the influence of the Federalist Society, of which all of the six conservative members of the Supreme Court are either current or former members.
The impact: Major departures from precedent, such as the spiking of Roe and this week’s affirmative action ruling, have focused national attention on the court’s dramatic swing to the right.
* As a result of these shifts, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority is now often seen as a Federalist Society majority.
Looking forward: At least for now, the conservative swing in the Supreme Court appears set to continue, with no clear forces on the horizon capable of significantly altering this trajectory.
* Nevertheless, the court’s rulings have prompted renewed debate over the structure and dynamics of the U.S. judicial system.
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