Role of the Supreme Court in American Political Culture

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This study examines the irreconcilable demands of American contradicting political mythology and how this dynamic is played out in the arena of constitutional law and the U.S. Supreme Court. Unlike those who argue that America suffers from the paradoxical contradictions in its ideas (see, for example, H. Mark Roelofs, The Poverty of American Politics), this book suggests that the very strength of American political idealism lies in its contradictions, and that the Supreme Court’s essential role is the preservation of those contradicting ideals. In early chapters, classic liberal demands and contradictions as well as republican ideals are examined. The author argues that healthy liberalism is dependent upon a healthy republican ideal. The author further demonstrates that dominant judicial philosophies from the right and left are all inadequate due to their failure to comprehend the Court’s mythical responsibilities. In the final chapter, Roe v. Wade and Bush v. Gore are shown as examples where the Court failed. By refusing to take their mythological responsibilities seriously, the Court’s opinions in these cases appear to rest on blatant power politics. It is as if the members of the Court blatantly replaced their mythical priestly robes with the hats of highly suspect politicians. A brief examination of Brown v. Board of Education reveals a Court meeting its obligation by carefully staying in the realm of myth as it cautiously resolved the case. The author further argues that the nation would be well served if justices on the Court would pursue this most important political responsibility when exercising judicial review and that conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, all have a vital interest in encouraging justices on the Court to accept this responsibility. The author suggests that conflicting idealism is essential to freedom as it checks powerful political agendas from the right and the left, and demonstrates that the Supreme Court is uniquely positioned to promote this idealism. History has shown that a single unifying political philosophy, which makes it easy to run rough-shod over all who stand in its way, it not always desirable. The strength of American idealism is that it refuses to grant full legitimacy to virtually any government initiative.


“ ... This book comes at an opportune time as the country ponders the political implications of change in the personnel of the U.S. Supreme Court over the coming decade. Who will be appointed to the Court has become a major partisan issue. Dr. Hunter presents a cogent argument that simultaneously offers a new understanding of the Supreme Court’s unique role in the American constitutional system, and a framework for a new theory of judicial review. This book will be a useful text in any number of academic courses in political science and legal studies. Besides those scholars and students who have in interest in the federal judiciary and constitutional law, this is an excellent book for those interested in American government, American political theory and in American political culture ...” – (from the Preface) Professor Timothy D. Jeske, Yakima Valley Community College

“This provocative book provides not only a detailed argument about the proper functioning of the Supreme Court in the American constitutional system, but also stands as a timely meditation on the rising challenges to the legitimacy of the judicial branch. Against the backdrop of the Court’s decisions from Roe v. Wade to Bush v. Gore, and the recent tumult over gay marriage and the Ten Commandments, Dr. Hunter challenges us all to see the political role of the Court apart from the politics of left and right ... This work stands as a fresh contribution to the ‘new constitutionalism’ – reconciling the competing impulses of social justice and self-interest in the American political culture, and moving our discussion of the Constitution from a thin legalism to a robust political understanding.” – Professor Seán Patrick Eudaily, University of Montana-Western

“This study invites readers to explore the historical evolution and daily relevance of the long-standing values that animate American politics ... This rich analysis draws upon and informs our understanding of scholars ranging from John Locke to Louis Hartz and H. Mark Roelofs and spans critical events from the framing of the Declaration of Independence through the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore. Through it all, readers will follow a wise and thoughtful guide on this important meditation and study of the American polity and the enduring strength that is forged in the very conflicts that divide it.” – Professor John Gilliom, Ohio University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface by Timothy D. Jeske
1. Mythical Ideals in American Political Culture
2. American Mythology and Controlling Government
3. The Myths of Republicanism
4. The Inadequacies of Judicial Philosophies
5. Preserving Myth: The Essential Role
Selected Bibliography

Other United States Supreme Court Books