Reihan: Tom Goldstein on the Coming Supreme Court Switcheroo

This piece, by supremely well-regarded Supreme Court analyst Tom Goldstein, is exactly the kind of political analysis I like: it is sensitive to context, it makes an effort to anticipate the predictable responses of activists, and it provides new information for casual readers.

The upshot is that the upcoming term won't end as this one did, with headlines and TV reports describing the court as profoundly conservative, triggering praise from the right and howls of protest from the left. Instead, we will see (mistaken) talk of the court's "surprising" tack back to the left. In fact, this commentary will be wrong: The justices and their views will be exactly the same come June 2008; it is the cases that will be different. But the misleading sense of direction that's likely when the term ends next June could make the court a galvanizing campaign issue for Republicans, not Democrats.

Yesterday, a friend noted that the tyranny of the clever argument can be paralyzing: some smart writers spend all of their energy thinking of something offbeat to say, when they could instead simply convey striking facts. I guess I suffer from this same disease, so I'm reluctant to criticize this tendency. But it does say something about the rising popularity of activist media relative to interpretive media in the opinion space. Perhaps because I'm a fogey, or at least fogey-identified, I still enjoy kooky-argument-driven stuff more.