The Supreme Court is more conservative than it’s been in almost a century. ​​Its new term begins today (Oct. 4), and by next June, when the term ends, Americans might finally understand what that means. Public opinion of the court is already at a record low after the court allowed a strict abortion law to go into effect in Texas in early September. Now, the justices are preparing to hear the court’s first major gun rights case since 2010 as well as a case on the future of abortion in the U.S. Both cases could result in decisions that are far more extreme than most Americans want.

Michael Salamone

“In the past, even if the court was trending conservative overall, it wasn’t like the conservatives always won and the liberals always lost,” said Michael Salamone, a political science professor at Washington State University who studies the Supreme Court and public opinion. “Now it’s looking like conservative victories are going to be a lot more consistent and a lot more far-reaching.”

In that sense, this new term might be a turning point — and not just because of the importance of the cases or the risk of a backlash to an individual decision. The next few months might be the beginning of a new era in which the conservative justices move sharply away from where most Americans stand on major issues, and dare politicians to do something about it.

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