But even if you accept that our country increasingly craves a kind of stabilizing central power, Kennedy’s freedom-first synthesis did not succeed in supplying it. Instead, our age of opioids and suicide and sterility, and the heartland populists and Bronxian socialists that anomie has conjured up, strongly indicates that his neoliberal model needs correction — that the freedom of capital and genitals is not enough for human flourishing, that community and solidarity need to have their day, even if it comes at the expense of certain liberties and transcendentalist idylls.
Here it may be that John Roberts, Kennedy’s likely successor as our First Archon, is better suited than his predecessor to the imperial task. We know that Roberts is more temperamentally cautious than Kennedy, more interested in limited rulings than in sweeping ones. We also know that he’s both more friendly to religious conservatism (witness his Obergefell vote) and more willing to let social-democratic policymaking stand (witness his vote to save Obamacare).
That combination could produce a Roberts court that doesn’t lay down its extraordinary powers — the old republic may be too far gone for that — but manages to use them in a somewhat different style, to further a somewhat more communitarian vision.