Discrediting a Conservative Supreme Court
When Republicans gained the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, I was working on Capitol Hill – and was, with myriad conservatives nationwide, elated. But one distinct memory is how many Democrats were less disappointed at their electoral loss than indignant over it.
This is understandable. Four decades is a long time, and after running things for that long it’s natural that House Democrats would have a sense of propriety, of ownership, over what truly is the people’s House.
That same sense of ownership can be seen in the way the Left is reacting to many of the recent decisions of the Supreme Court. As The Washington Stand has documented extensively, the current conservative majority in the court has made excellent decisions concerning the sanctity of unborn life, religious liberty, and the limits of federal power.
These things run counter to the agenda of liberals who, for many years, felt the tide of the court’s rulings running their way. From 1973’s Roe v. Wade (unrestricted access to abortion on demand) to 2015’s Obergefell v. Hodges (eliminated all state laws concerning same-sex marriage and declared that such marriage is a constitutional right), the Left has won numerous victories on controversial social issues.
Conservatives have been dismayed by these rulings, arguing that they violate any honest reading of the Constitution and also encourage cultural breakdown and moral wrongdoing. But I cannot think of a single conservative leader, now or in the past, who has suggested we should “pack the court” with more than nine justices in order to reinstate originalist jurisprudence and judicial restraint.
Now, though, many liberals are beside themselves over the court’s recognition that no constitutional right to abortion exists, that religious liberty matters, that no president has the right simply to cancel voluntarily-obtained private debt and similar matters. Such far-left Members of Congress as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Ayana Pressley (D-Mass.) are urging their supporters to back legislation to add new members to the Supreme Court in order to stem the tide of conservative rulings. Ocasio-Cortez even claims that “without any check on their power,” there lurks a “dangerous authoritarian expansion of power in the Supreme Court.”
Much of this flows not from any principled concern with authoritarianism but with the collapse of a long-term strategy of the hard Left. Unable to get its radical agenda through Congress, the Left has looked to the federal courts — especially the Supreme Court — to enact its priorities from the nation’s highest legal bench. Now that there is a conservative majority on the court, one which believes the text of the Constitution has an objective and understandable meaning and, as a result, refuses to create “rights” out of ideological thin air, American liberals are in a panic.
This is why, in May, several Democratic Senators and House Members introduced a measure to “expand the court by adding four seats to counter (its) rightward tilt.” Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, now running to replace Diane Feinstein in the U.S. Senate, said recently at a rally that the Supremes are trying to “subject an entire generation of Americans to the loss of their rights.”
The subtext of this embarrassing silliness is clear: The Supreme Court majority does not accept the judicial activism of its liberal predecessors and is working to undo decisions that have undermined not just the Constitution but also the liberties of the American people and the rights articulated in the Declaration. Justice Amy Coney Barrett has put it well: the “constitutional text means what it did at the time it was ratified and that this original public meaning is authoritative.” Were this not the case, the Constitution would not contain a provision for its own amendment (why amend something that can be reinterpreted at will) or the 10th Amendment, which states, “the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” In other words, what the Constitution does not address specifically belongs to state government and to the people generally.
Political frustration is not reserved for the Left. However, if we are to remain a nation in which liberty, justice, and order prevail, fidelity to the written text of the Constitution and its proper interpretation is imperative. That the current Supreme Court is more committed to constitutional integrity than it has been for decades should be a source of rejoicing, not just for those of us on the Right but for all Americans.
Rob Schwarzwalder, Ph.D., is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.