The U.S. Supreme Court secured significant victories for conservatives, becoming a pivotal issue in Pennsylvania’s upcoming autumn election.
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the current conservative majority in the U.S. Supreme Court has secured significant wins. Now, discontent among liberals regarding these rulings is becoming a central issue in Pennsylvania’s high-profile election this fall.
The Democratic candidate running for an open seat on Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has been consistently emphasizing the threat posed by the nation’s highest court to rights that Democrats have vigorously defended. This concern has been exacerbated by the fact that the court now holds a 6-3 conservative majority due to three appointees by President Donald Trump.
Dan McCaffery, the Democratic contender, positions himself as a guardian against a U.S. Supreme Court majority that he argues is eroding federally protected rights and shifting the responsibility to states to address the resulting void.
He emphasized the importance of electing judges in Pennsylvania as a way to combat these concerns. McCaffery has made this case in various forums, including during an online audience with Rev. Alyn E. Waller of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
This election reflects the evolving reality in which political polarization is increasingly influencing court matters, especially in states where high court justices are elected. Advocates from both sides of the political spectrum recognize the significance of controlling the courts at all levels, encompassing issues such as abortion politics, civil rights, and redistricting.
Abortion rights, in particular, have taken center stage in this year’s lone state Supreme Court contest in Wisconsin, where the fate of the state’s abortion ban was at stake. A Democratic-supported judge from Milwaukee secured victory, granting liberals control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court for the first time in 15 years. This election followed the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade, thereby initiating legal battles over abortion rights at the state level.
In Pennsylvania, while McCaffery’s election won’t alter the Democratic majority in the state high court (currently 4-2), the U.S. Supreme Court remains a frequent target in his campaign when addressing the race, his candidacy, or matters concerning the judiciary.
McCaffery asserts that the U.S. Supreme Court’s actions have underscored the significance of electing judges who share the values of protecting rights and liberties. He often references decisions, including those related to affirmative action and gay rights, made by the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
On the other hand, his opponent for the seat, Republican Carolyn Carluccio, suggests that McCaffery is inconsistent in his approach. She points out that while he criticizes certain judges and their decisions as activist, he also expresses a willingness to challenge legal precedents. Carluccio refrains from discussing her views on issues or the U.S. Supreme Court.
McCaffery contends that Carluccio will align with the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservatives on a state bench that has played a pivotal role in major voting rights cases, such as ruling GOP-drawn congressional districts as unconstitutional gerrymandering and rejecting Republican attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania.
McCaffery’s focus on the U.S. Supreme Court’s role comes at a critical time when ethical concerns surround the institution, and public trust in it has reached a 50-year low. Approximately one-third of Americans express little confidence in the people overseeing the U.S. Supreme Court, with Democrats and Independents more likely to express this sentiment than Republicans, according to an October poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Despite the rightward shift of the court, it has not necessarily demonstrated a higher inclination to override court precedent or existing laws. The current court, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, has overturned precedent and struck down legislation at a slower rate than its post-war predecessors.
However, the composition of the current court is relatively new, and it is possible that the conservative majority may become more assertive over time as cases are brought before it. McCaffery warns of this possibility, citing Justice Clarence Thomas’s call for the court to revisit cases related to same-sex marriage, gay rights, and contraception.
McCaffery sees these issues as gradually eroding, with the potential for them to be shifted back to state courts.