Dig A Deep Hole: The Conservative Era Died With Scalia
Antonin Scalia’s Death Was The End Of An Era, And The Beginning Of A New One.
An American flag draped over Antonin Scalia’s casket. The bell tolled ceaselessly as besuited men waited to lift his body from the hearse and carry it before the apse. It was the kind of sound that monopolizes the aural landscape. The kind of sound that, when it finally stops, makes the rich world of reverberation come back to life before your very ears.
Scalia was appointed for life in 1986. When he finally died, so did the originalist refrain that monopolized the Supreme Court for three decades. It took the death of a fabled polemicist and fierce conservative to bring the constitution back to life, and a living constitution it shall remain.
Writing for Slate, Dahlia Lithwick proclaimed The Conservative Era Is Over. All signs point in this direction. And it isn’t just because the next justice will lean left. Robert Barnes, writing for the Washington Post, notes:
“With Justice Antonin Scalia’s chair empty and draped in mourning black — the court’s booming conservative voice silenced — the Supreme Court, now with only eight members, seemed transformed in substance and style.”
The meek Justice Thomas may share Scalia’s values, but can’t throw around the same weight as his larger-than-life (and larger-than-britches) friend. The conservative faction is fading.
The Court’s three female justices, once obscured by Scalia’s booming voice, dominated oral arguments in the Texas abortion case. The Court affirmed the right of same-sex partners to adopt children. As Slate notes, they even tossed out a death penalty conviction in Louisiana—try that with the notoriously pro-capital punishment Scalia sitting on the bench (for the purpose of clarity, Scalia believed the constitution does not explicitly rule-out execution of an innocent person, and therefore a conviction shouldn’t be overturned).
Fading too are the interests of business lobbyists, who no longer see the Supreme Court as a fast-track to deregulated salvation. The NRA, for example, is halting its case against New York’s SAFE act because “it’s just the wrong time.” But with Scalia gone and an Obama-appointed justice on the way, it may never again be the right time.
Dahlia Lithwick of Slate again:
“This is a shocking turn from how the judicial landscape looked earlier this year. Going into this term, a number of important cases had been seen as likely to change the way we vote, the way we regulate abortion, and the way we fund public-sector unions. So certain were some plaintiffs of their likelihood of success that they had their appeals rocketed to the Roberts court on a fast track, catapulted by various interest groups toward the conservative majority.”
What more can be said? The bell no longer tolls for a static constitution. The bell no longer tolls for conservative causes and special interests. And for whom does the bell toll? It tolls for progress. It tolls for thee.
Featured image by Levan Ramishvili via Flickr [Public Domain].