In an extremely rare occurrence on Wednesday, Nov. 21, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts publicly rebuked Donald Trump, who called another judge an “Obama judge” after that judge made a decision Trump disliked. “We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. The independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for,” Roberts said.
The exact significance of Roberts’ words lies not only in the fact that he presides over the highest level of judicial authority in America, but also in the fact that he was appointed to the Supreme Court by former President George W. Bush; Roberts would not, therefore, normally be considered a political opponent of a Republican president.
In a broader sense, Chief Justice Roberts reminds us that a democracy does not just consist of electoral victories; it rests on the balance and separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches as well. This is a healthy reminder at a time when authoritarian personal power ratified by the ballot box, or “demotatorship,” is on a roll.*
*Editor’s note: The term “demotatorship” has been popularly used to describe a system whereby democratically elected leadership transforms into a life-long dictatorship, in which one party alone controls the justice, media and administrative processes.