Astonishing, isn't it? And frightening, given the continued 5 to 4 dominance of Republican political activists on the court. They've already decided case after case by rejecting precedent and pushing Republican political interests in that strict 5 to 4 voting (just as, I should point out, they gave us George W. Bush as president, also 5 to 4).
Josh Marshall at TPM makes a good point about all of these terrible Supreme Court decisions:
It is increasingly difficult to find any unifying theory or rationale behind the Supreme Court's election and election financing decisions other than the goal of securing the electoral interests of the Republican party. That sounds harsh. But a simple process of elimination leaves little other conclusion. States rights, originalism, deference to legislatures, various constructions of democratic theory and a lot else are controlling except when they're not controlling. Most of the decisions line up with the conservative jurisprudence espoused by the Court's conservative semi-majority. Except when they don't. Cases are plucked out of the lower courts long before the high court has any obligation or need to intervene. The new case which will review the 'one person, one vote' rule which has been reining law for half a century would likely diminish the voting power of cities vs rural areas, minorities vs whites and Democrats vs Republicans, if decided on behalf of the plaintiffs. In other words, why not?
When the Republicans on the court selected George W. Bush as president in 2000, they decided against states' rights for pretty much the first time ever. It was pretty clear, I thought, that they just wanted a Republican president.
Since then, as Marshall points out, there's been no guiding principle whatsoever. The five Republicans (all men, all Catholic) simply seem to make their decisions on what will benefit the Republican Party.
That's political activism, not deciding cases of law. And indeed, some of them have remained active in right-wing politics, despite being on the bench of the highest court in the land. They don't even pretend to stay impartial.
Republicans have broken America's political system. They've broken Congress by refusing to do anything our first black president wanted, just because he wanted it. They agreed to do that before he'd even taken office for his first term, while America was embroiled in two wars and while our economy was collapsing in the worst economic crash since the Great Depression.
It didn't make any difference what Barack Obama wanted, because they agreed to this before he'd even taken office or proposed anything at all. Indeed, they held to it even when the Democrats adopted the Republican Party's own health care plan!
And now, Republican Supreme Court justices are apparently deciding legal cases based on what's best for the Republican party. Our nation cannot function like this. Our democracy cannot function like this. The Republican Party is deliberately harming America for partisan political benefit.
And by and large, they're getting away with it.