Antonin Scalia, The Legacy of Democracy

The Originalist. The New Hamilton. The Italian Wordsmith. The Conservative Catholic. The Right-Winged Nut. Ginsburg’s BFF. Call him what you will. Justice Antonin Scalia left his footprint on the jurisprudence of the United States over the last thirty years that will not soon be forgotten. His opinion in Heller and his dissents in King v. Burwell, Lawrence v. Texas, Obergefell v. Hodges, and Fisher v. University of Texas are well-known and will be remembered for years to come, love ‘em or hate ‘em. Though many disagree with his originalist construction of the Constitution, Scalia was a revered and respected justice, by his friends and foes alike. And perhaps that is the legacy of Scalia, looking past some of his less-than-popular dissents or looking beyond his way with words. It is the legacy of democracy.

We live in a country where men and women, from different backgrounds and walks of life, are permitted to engage in debate, discourse, and flat out disagreement about what the Constitution and other laws mean. The Supreme Court is an institution that represents democracy (ignoring for a moment the political stare downs that have ensued since Scalia’s death). We all, from time to time, fail to appreciate democracy, and the justices’ bouts on the Supreme Court are a good reminder. Indeed, it is an arena of Frazier versus Ali, except it is Scalia versus Ginsburg. Sotomayor versus Thomas. Twelve rounds of writing and rewriting and at the end, harsh blows are exchanged.  No holds barred and, for the time being, a winner is declared. And at the end of the day, after the ink is dry, the justices remain friends, even best buddies. The band marches on, the flag still flies. This is America. As the wise, faux president (played by the ever-talented Michael Douglas) said in The American President, “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You gotta want it bad, ‘cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say ‘You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.'”

Think about that. The legacy of Scalia that perhaps everyone can agree on and build upon is his enduring love of country and the bench’s most fervent liberal justice, Ginsburg. The two were not mutually exclusive in Scalia’s eyes. And Ginsburg’s tribute to her dear friend and fellow justice states it best: “We are different, we are one, different in our interpretation of written texts, one in our reverence for the Constitution and the institution we serve.”

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