Gun control, LGBT rights, abortion, school prayer. In the past four decades, widespread consensus emerged that the most significant, politically charged constitutional issues are cultural. But with each passing year, the Supreme Court hears new cases that shape the distribution of wealth in this country and determines whether the economically powerful also wield political power. At the same time, economic debates on inequality, mobility and corporate power are back at the forefront of public affairs.
Constitutional debates over culture war issues are not going to disappear altogether. But with economic anxiety still high after the Great Recession and generational changes in attitudes, culture war issues are less and less likely to be the single defining feature of the next era in constitutional debate. Although prediction is always risky, it appears that a new era of constitutional debate is emerging, one in which the critical battles will be increasingly fought over economic issues. This shift could—arguably should—affect the qualities and expertise a president seeks when selecting the next justice.This article was originally published in Politico Magazine.