Understanding how the Court operates and Constitutional principles it has established, is challenging, but necessary. Through listening to The Great Courses’, “A History of the Supreme Court”, by Peter Irons, reading “The Most Dangerous Branch” by David Kaplan, and listening to lectures contained in the Great Courses’, “Civil Liberty and the Bill of Rights” by John E. Finn, among other sources, key themes and patterns are becoming apparent.
Recently, after attending a Trump rally in Grand Rapids, a Trump advocate I will be interviewing stressed how he “supports the Constitution”, which, he says, is his motivating ideology. I needed my own objective view, based on reading, of what “supporting the Constitution” means.
Conservatives often say, “We cannot have the Supreme Court rewriting the Constitution and in effect writing new laws”. I needed to understand whether recent Conservative rulings such as Heller vs. District of Columbia (striking down prohibitions of handguns), Citizen’s United versus Federal Election Commission (allowing corporations to spend as much money as they like on political campaigns), and Shelby County vs. Holder (weakening enforcement of the Voting Rights Act), are truly rooted in a more accurate, more literal reading of the Constitution. Likewise, I wanted to understand if liberal decisions like Roe versus Wade (legalizing abortion nationally) and the recent Roberts Court decision, Obergefell versus Hodges (legalizing gay marriage nationally) are sound.
The basic lesson I have learned, is that in an era of partisan politics, the Court is prone to re-interpreting the Constitution so as to create law not rooted in the Constitution. The right-leaning members have distorted “originalism” when it suits their political views, and have written new law accordingly. Likewise, the left-leaning members of the court are willing to “make new law” if it fits their views or how society should work, even if preferences of State legislatures are disregarded. Both groups have ridden roughshod over Congress and State legislatures and over solid legal precedence when it accords with their political views.