The Corner

Politics & Policy

Does Joy Reid Know What a Constitutional Amendment Is?

It is probably a waste to even bother trying to address this, but I’ll take this one for the team.

Amy Coney Barrett says that the role of the judge is to interpret the Constitution as it actually is written, with special attention given to the meaning of the words as understood at the time of their writing. Joy Reid responds with what she apparently imagines to be a devastating reply: “At the time the Constitution was ratified, Black people were classed as 3/5 of a person.”

This is true. And so we . . . amended the Constitution.

The amendments were voted on in Congress, ratified by the states, etc., and laws were passed acting on those amendments. That is how amending the Constitution works.

It does not work by having freelance moralists on the Supreme Court impose their personal views of justice on the law — even when they are right.

The reason for that is that giving five unaccountable lawyers the power to rewrite the basic law on a whim creates the power to do great evil along with the power to do good.

The same model of judicial super-legislation that produced the so-called constitutional right to abortion also blessed Roosevelt’s concentration camps (Korematsu), Wilson’s war on political dissent (Schenck), eugenic sterilization (Buck), and, famously, the dehumanization of African Americans (Dred Scott). “We want to give quasi-dictatorial powers to the Supreme Court, but only if they do nice things with it!” is not an argument for adults. It is an invitation to chaos, as our own Supreme Court has demonstrated on many occasions.

Surely it is better to have the 13th Amendment — and the First, and the Second — than to rely on the good will and enlightenment of a temporary majority of nine lawyers appointed by such presidents as we elect through the goat-rodeo of American democracy. That is why we write the important things down, and make the most important of them difficult to change.


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