Pushback: The Political Fallout of Unpopular Supreme Court Decisions

In this interdisciplinary book in an interdisciplinary series, Dave Bridge crosses methodological boundaries to offer readers insights on the political “push­back” that historically follows Supreme Court rulings with which most Americans disagree. After developing a framework for identifying the Court’s rare countermajor­itarian decisions, Bridge shows how those decisions that liberals backed in the 1950s through the 1970s consistently upset con­servative factions in the Democratic Party, which always managed to weather the storms—that is until Roe v. Wade in 1973. In Pushback, Bridge offers compelling hy­potheses about how the two major parties can use unpopular Supreme Court rulings to shift the political momentum and win elections. He then puts those hypotheses to the test, analyzing the political fallout of recent rulings on controversial issues such as Obamacare, same-sex marriage, and religious liberty.

Certain to appeal to anyone interested in American political science and history, Pushback closes with a detailed exami­nation of the unequivocally counterma­joritarian Supreme Court ruling of our lifetimes, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe. For the first time in 50 years, conditions are ripe for a party to win votes by campaign­ing against the will of the Court. Upcom­ing elections will tell if the Republicans overplayed their hand, or if Democrats will play theirs as skillfully as did the GOP after Roe.

An important and insightful contribution to our understanding of the Supreme Court’s role in American politics. A substantively rich account of the Warren and Burger Courts, and a theoretically valuable analysis of how the least democratic branch of the federal government is made to feel popular pressures.” —Keith E. Whittington, Princeton University

Pushback offers the rare combination of rich history and sophisticated theory in exploring the ways in which the American people and governing officials respond to unpopular Supreme Court decisions. Scholars, political activists, and all interested readers have much to learn from Dave Bridge’s fascinating study of the successes, failures, and everything in between of political efforts to thwart judicial efforts to tell the rest of us what our Constitution means.” —Mark Graber, University of Maryland, Carey School of Law

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University of Missouri Press, Studies in Constitutional Democracy Series, March 2024


Dave Bridge is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Baylor University