Nothing embodied Franklin D. Roosevelt's campaign to lastingly embed the New Deal in the major institutions of American government more than his effort to pack the Supreme Court. Vaulting Ambition, the inaugural volume in the Landmark Presidential Decisions series, presents a balanced assessment of FDR's 1937 effort to fundamentally change the highest court in the land.
Unlike most work on the subject, Michael Nelson centers his study on the president's series of decisions to reform the Court, rather than on the Court's responses. At the heart of the book is an analytical narrative of FDR's crusade to expand the Court and pack it with those sympathetic to his cause. While keeping this story front and center, Vaulting Ambition also presents the Court-packing effort as part of FDR's larger campaign to shape the executive branch bureaucracy, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Democratic Party all in service to enduringly entrench the New Deal into US government and politics.
Although FDR never achieved the mastery over the entire federal government that he sought, his efforts to expand and transform the three branches of government and the Democratic Party were of great consequence and endured long beyond his tenure. Nelson offers a clear understanding of how FDR's campaign sheds essential light on today's raging controversy over changing the Supreme Court.