The Corner

“No Business”

A longtime liberal reader is aghast at my suggestion that the justices have no business ruling contrary to the plain meaning of the constitution:

Subject: What do you mean, “no business”?

Those are very loosely chosen words. You are showing disrespect for the Constitution, just as FDR did when he tried to pack the court. You impugn not the integrity of the justices who rule, but of the system itself which makes those justices the supreme law of the land in determining what the law means. This is 1803 stuff, and to challenge it is to be radical in the most essential sense of the term.

Me: I like and respect this reader a lot, I consider him a friend. But I find this fascinating and very revealing of the liberal mindset (note: he’s a lawyer).

Marbury v. Madison, first of all, was far more modest a decision than we are often told. But let’s stick with the mainstream view of 1803 and all that. Are we really supposed to believe that the Supreme Court was given the power in that year — or any other — to simply reject the plain text of the Constitution? We’re not talking about “interpretation” here — a word that’s often used to justify plainly unconstitutional enterprises. We’re talking about the actual black-letter text of the Constitution. Is it “radical” to proclaim that the justices have “no business” ruling that we no longer need elections in this country? Is it radical to suggest that they have no business abolishing free speech? Can they simply proclaim that the Congress is unconstitutional, even though the Constitution says we have to have one. What about slavery? Can they overrule the 13th amendment and simply say it’s okay?

If that’s what happened in 1803, I’m at a loss as to why Thomas Jefferson & Co. didn’t grab their rifles and head to the hills to have another try at revolution.

The Supreme Court, for good or ill, may today be the last word on interpreting the equivocal bits in the constitution, but has the living constitution disease spread so far that now they are free to rewrite the unequivocal bits as well? And is the dementia that comes with this disease so advanced that it’s considered “radical” to suggest things should be otherwise?

In fact, how can it be “disrespectful” to the Constitution if the Constitution doesn’t mean anything?

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