Normally, a political party attacks the Supreme Court when it’s a pillar of the other party’s positions. Thus, President Franklin Roosevelt, having won Democratic control of the White House and Congress, attacked the court as the last redoubt of laissez-faire capitalism at a time when, he said, events had proved that laissez-faire capitalism didn’t work.
Blowback from his failed court-packing scheme aside, that worked pretty well for FDR. In fact, from his time to the present, the Supreme Court has been a bulwark of the Democrats’ policy platform. Unpopular decisions — ranging from Wickard v. Filburn, to Miranda v. Arizona, to Roe v. Wade — have all been supported by reference to the court’s prestige and legitimacy. Even those who believe the court’s decisions unfounded have been encouraged to go along as part of the “rule of law.”
But what if the Democrats’ campaign succeeds — that is, what if Americans are persuaded that the high court is illegitimate? What if its prestige is driven as low as that of Congress? And what if a Republican president decides to take on the court?