While Iraq, global warming and surgeons general dominated the front pages this week, the steady rumbling sound you heard echoing through the blogosphere was all about the now-finished first term of the John Roberts’s Supreme Court. The gauntlet was thrown down most brazenly [$] by Jeffrey Rosen in The New Republic, who asks the big question: “The polarization inspired the four liberal justices to write some of their most passionate, incisive, and memorable dissents. But how pessimistic should liberals really be about the future of the Court?”

Rosen’s answer is cautious, but not panic-inducing for Democrats. Other liberals are far more skeptical: “Rosen now wants us to believe that he was making some kind of point about political realism,” replies Matthew Yglesias, “but that’s not what was going on. People were writing, in the face of the evidence, that Roberts marked a clear break with Scalia. And we’re seeing that he unquestionably is a break in prose style but he makes the same rulings.”

Scott Lemieux at Tapped goes further. “The Alito/Roberts method is, if anything, even worse for liberals than the Scalia/Thomas one: it achieves the same results while attracting less public scrutiny,” writes Lemieux “It’s worth noting that Alito and Roberts did not join the one “narrowing” opinion of any substantive significance: Kennedy’s refusal to go along with the ‘color-blind’ majority in the school desegregation cases.”

David Sirota looks back in anger: “Back when George Bush was nominating people like John Roberts and Sam Alito to the Supreme Court, I wrote a series of posts (here’s one) wondering why Democrats and progressives weren’t focusing more on what these two right-wing nominees would do to basic economic policy. Now, with them on the court, we get an idea why I was so worried about this.”

While Tom Goldstein at Scotusblog looks forward with hope: “My ultimate predictions? Kim Wardlaw (2009, for Souter), Deval Patrick (2010, for Stevens), and Elena Kagan (2011, for Ginsburg).”

The wishful thinking from the left was largely in reaction to Linda Greenhouse’s article in The Times about efforts on the left to build “a long-term strategy built around an affirmative message of what the Constitution means and what the enterprise of constitutional interpretation should be about.”

Ann Althouse can see why the idea of a “heroic” court is tempting, but thinks it doesn’t pass the reality check. “This grand vision for a Court that would expansively and actively enforce rights will be seen by present day voters as a political proposal,” she writes on her blog. “If people today really want that vision, they can get it from the political branches. They don’t need a reactivated liberal Court. The liberal lawprofs’ dream seems to be that you could get people to believe that the expansive vision of rights is the proper way to do constitutional interpretation and they’d be willing to go along with that even if they didn’t want these rights enough to support enacting them into law through statutes. But what are the chances that people today would allow liberal academics to convince them of such a thing?”

Indeed — and in any case, liberals can do all the plotting they want, but it doesn’t look like Messrs. Roberts, Alito, Scalia and Thomas are going away any time soon.