Periodically a popular movement arises that seeks to overthrow long-established constitutional principles or apply them in a novel way. The movement takes the White House in an election that marks the beginning of a realignment that establishes that party as the majority for the next generation. The victors then push through a transformative statute (or series of statutes). These proposals lead to especially bitter debate in Congress and spur a counter-mobilization by those who see the movement-party as dangerous. Eventually, the transformative law (or laws) come before a Supreme Court dominated by Justices of the opposite party. Sometimes the Court issues a sweeping opinion nullifying these enactments and throwing down the gauntlet to the political branches, in an act that I call a "preemptive opinion." Sometimes the Court upholds the revolutionary statute, but does so in a contorted way that is meant to signal to legal elites and voters that something extraordinary is going on and that voters must take action now to stop this runaway train. A presidential election follows that, if won by the President's party, confirms the realignment and consolidates the new regime.
Consider some examples:
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment