The Supreme Court is an unusual institution, because it somehow manages to be both majestic and intimate.
The court is housed in a marble temple with soaring columns, and it has made some of the most consequential decisions in American history. But it feels like a simpler institution than either the presidency or Congress. Its arguments are not televised but are open to the public. Spectators are often surprised by the courtroom’s modest size. Outside the court, the nine justices tend to lead more normal day-to-day lives than senators, governors or other grandees.
This combination has long allowed the court to embody the American ideal of democratic government — powerful yet humble — and many people have revered it as a result.
But today the Supreme Court is in trouble. And the issues are much larger than the mess of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Absent some kind of course correction, the court risks a crisis of legitimacy.