Linda Greenhouse writes in the New York Times that she is skeptical of a prevailing narrative that the U.S. Supreme Court, “short-handed and stumbling in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, finally got its act together at the end of June…(and) — lo and behold — turned liberal.” The two major decisions at the end of the term, University of Texas v. Fisher and Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, had outcomes that pleased liberals: Affirmative action in university admissions survived by a margin of a single vote, and women’s access to abortion, in states trying their best to shut down abortion clinics, survived by a margin of two.
But to understand the Supreme Court under Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., she writes, it’s important to get beyond the binary liberal-versus-conservative label and see these and other recent cases in their full context. Greenhouse says the truth that emerges is much more nuanced. She concludes, “To reject a conservative extreme doesn’t make the court liberal. Rather, it puts the court — increasingly over the dissent of the chief justice, it’s worth noting — in the zone of mainstream reasonableness.”