Antonin Scalia & The Perversion Of American Values
I’m glad that conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia appeared on Fox News Sunday yesterday in order to promote his new book. In the course of his interview with Chris Wallace, Scalia gave great insight into the bizarre mindset that inhabits mainstream conservative legal thought.
Scalia explained to Wallace that he is a member of the cult of originalism.
WALLACE: You — in your book, you explain your approach to judging, which is called textualism or originalism. What exactly is that?
SCALIA: Originalism is sort of subspecies of textualism. Textualism means you are governed by the text.
That’s the only thing that is relevant to your decision, not whether the outcome is desirable, not whether legislative history says this or that. But the text of the statute.
Originalism says that when you consult the text, you give it the meaning it had when it was adopted, not some later modern meaning. So —
WALLACE: So, if it was the Constitution written in the 18th century, you try to find what those words meant in the 18th century.
This is madness. We do not live in the 18th century. At the time of the Constitution’s writing the meaning of “liberty” was liberty for wealthy, white, male landowners. If you continue to interpret the Constitution as if the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries don’t exist, you do a disservice to America.
As great as the Constitution is, it was not handed down by the Lord to Moses. It is not the word of God, but rather the work of man. It has and will be amended and reinterpreted because America — more than any other nation — was not frozen in amber when the Constitution was ratified.
Some of the greatest advances in America have come when we have modified the Constitution. We’ve advanced the cause of human rights by changing this document, not by pretending as if we still live in the 18th century.
Scalia’s view of the Constitution is not a fringe belief within conservatism. in fact, Scalia is often cited as the model for conservative jurisprudence. That is not an America we should hope for.