Opinion: Roberts asks why trust in the court has plunged. He’s seated among the answers

New York Times file photo / Justices of the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021. Seated from left: Associate Justice Samuel Alito, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John Roberts, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer and Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Standing from left: Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett. The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade shifted the abortion fight to state legislatures, where gerrymandering has given Republicans an advantage.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts lamented recently that he didn't "understand" why the court's legitimacy has been diminished in Americans' eyes merely because it has issued "opinions people disagree with." If he really thinks that's the problem, then, no, he doesn't understand at all. Any sober assessment of the court's behavior in the relatively brief period since Senate Republicans repeatedly rewrote the rules to stack it with conservatives yields a clear conclusion: The court is increasingly being viewed as a tool for partisan political hackery because it's increasingly acting like one.

The court's current conservative majority is in place primarily because of the darkly impressive gamesmanship of then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He infamously held one vacant seat open for 11 months on the makeshift premise that the next president should choose, then rammed through another nominee in mere weeks to ensure that a subsequent president couldn't.