Anthony Kennedy’s Swing Vote Days Are Long Gone

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

One of the supposed surprises of today’s Obamacare ruling is that Anthony Kennedy, the traditional swing vote on the court, joined the fire-breathing conservatives in their bid to wipe out ACA completely. Meanwhile, reliable conservative John Roberts shied away from the precipice and wrote a modest, Kennedy-esque opinion that split the baby but ended up mostly leaving ACA intact.

I’m not sure why Roberts chose to do that, but Kennedy’s vote was less of a surprise: some time ago, for reasons that remain mysterious, Kennedy seemed to finally tire of being the court’s perennial squish. Who knows why? Maybe he just got tired of being called a squish. In any case, over the past five years he’s steadily become a much more reliable conservative vote, something the chart below, which we ran a couple of days ago, confirms. As you can see, several of the justices have moved rightward over the past few years, but Kennedy is the only one who’s moved from the center to a firmly conservative position, and he shows no signs of stopping. Whatever the reason for this, it’s really not correct to think of Kennedy as a centrist anymore. He’s now a pretty firm conservative vote, and Citizens United and the Obamacare decision have been his coming out party. The days of Lawrence and Kelo are long gone.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate