The focus of the current term is, of course, federal authority: immigration as well as health care. We don’t really know yet where the chief justice, now completing his seventh term, or Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., his frequent ally, stand on questions of Congressional power. But we do know where they, along with Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Anthony M. Kennedy, stand on the subject that is likely to be the focus of the next Supreme Court term. That subject is race.
Race is the project of the Roberts court – more than enhancing corporate welfare, more than lowering the barrier between church and state, more than redefining the boundary between state and federal authority.
What do I mean by project? As a young lawyer in the Reagan administration, John Roberts opposed robust enforcement of federal civil rights laws. His opposition to broadening the reach of the Voting Rights Act, as disclosed in the Reagan Library papers released as part of his 2005 Supreme Court confirmation process, briefly became an issue at his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. But the senators, evidently persuaded that as chief justice he would just be an umpire calling balls and strikes, moved on.