Steven Teles


Steven Teles is Associate Professor of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University. He has been a professor or visiting researcher at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, University of Maryland, Brandeis University, the University of London, Holy Cross and Hamilton Colleges. He is the author, most recently, of The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement: The Battle for Control of the Law (Princeton University Press, 2008), and before that Whose Welfare: AFDC and Elite Politics (University Press of Kansas, 1996). He is the co-editor of two books: Conservatism and American Political Development (Oxford University Press, 2009, with Brian Glenn) and Ethnicity, Social Mobility and Public Policy: Comparing the US and UK (Cambridge University Press, 2005, with Glenn Loury and Tariq Modood). Mr. Teles is also the editor of Oxford University Press' book series on Contemporary American Political Development.

Roberts’ Health Care Decision: Statesmanship, Not Jurisprudence

July 12, 2012

Just a few hours after the Supreme Court handed down its decision in NFIB v. Sibelius, I sent Washington Monthly a short post giving my instant reaction. My main purpose was, to be honest, to tell everyone that I had correctly predicted the Court’s decision. Sadly, I had previously failed to do so anywhere public, but just two days before the decision was handed down, I wrote to one of my graduate students, who was sure the Court would strike down Obamacare, “my prediction is that Roberts writes the opinion, and he upholds it on the taxing power. I know everyone thinks they strike it down, but I’m sticking to my guns that they don’t.” The lesson here is, for all the aspiring pundits reading this blog—always publish your predictions! If they’re wrong, no one will notice, and if they’re right, you’ll be able to prove your Nostradamus-like skills.

From the moment the Court took the case, I was telling everyone I could that no, the Court would not strike the law down, and that I anticipated that it would uphold it 7-2 or even 8-1. That said, my guess was also that the Court could not simply uphold it. I am a political scientist, not a lawyer or law professor, and the lens through which I view high-profile cases like this is pretty frankly political. My thought was that the political constraints on at least a sufficient bloc of conservatives to uphold the decision were: a) Striking down the highest profile piece of legislation of the opposite party, directly, was simply unthinkable but; b) The group of conservatives who voted with the liberals had to provide something to their own side in the process. I wasn’t exactly sure what that “something” was, but I was sure that there would be something. Read More »