“Legitimacy is for losers,” a political scientist once said. It’s a profound concept. The winning side in a decision will gladly accept it without asking why. But the losing side — whether the decision is made by a basketball referee or the Supreme Court — will accept defeat only if they believe the decision was made fairly and by the book.
That’s why the politicization of the U.S. Supreme Court is so alarming. People on the losing end of Supreme Court decisions increasingly feel that justice is not being served. That’s a scary situation for the high court, and for American democracy in general.
“The Supreme Court has no power to enforce its decisions,” Daniel Epps, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told me on Friday. “It doesn’t have an army. The only thing it has power to do is write PDFs and put them up on its website.”