There are certain people so deeply entrenched in the national consciousness that their immortality is sort of assumed. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was one of those figures. He was a larger-than-life man of such towering intellect and commanding influence that it never really registered that he might, someday, pass from the scene.
And yet, this first-class legal mind, superb jurist and fierce defender of the Constitution is now gone, leaving a gaping hole on a deeply divided court during a presidential election year. His passing has already begun to set off a potentially cataclysmic collision between all three branches of government. President Obama will nominate someone either via recess appointment or the traditional route, the Republican-led Senate will rightly block the nomination, and our fevered politics will once again boil over.
Mr. Obama bears the lion’s share of responsibility for this relentless and exhausting drama. The most radical chief executive in recent history, he has hijacked the Constitution in pursuit of his stated goal to “fundamentally transform the nation.” From stoking class warfare and divisions along racial, gender, ethnic and generational lines to remaking the health care, financial reform and energy sectors to issuing executive orders on everything from illegal immigration to guns to carbon emissions, Mr. Obama has wrapped the tentacles of leftism around every part of the nation.
He has not yet cemented the transformation, however, which is why he so desperately needs to control the future of the Supreme Court.
Let’s revisit Mr. Obama’s view of the court and the Constitution from his earliest days as an Illinois state senator.
Speaking to WBEZ radio in 2001, he advocated wealth redistribution as reparations for slavery and other injustices toward “previously dispossessed peoples.”
He said, “But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as people tried to characterize the [Earl] Warren court, it wasn’t that radical.”
And then Mr. Obama made one of the most revealing statements of his political life: “[The Warren court] didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it’s been interpreted, and the Warren court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties.”
Consider his words: “break free of the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution.” Mr. Obama was calling for actively charging against what the Founders intended and enshrined in the Constitution. His comments went further than simple leftist arguments about the “living Constitution” in which the document conceptually passively evolves. He called for a concerted and deliberate effort to shatter the very constraints the Founders put in place — to prevent abuses of the kind he was advocating.
This is the very essence of Mr. Obama’s redistributive radicalism: It’s all about “breaking free” from the Founders’ constraints to build a wholly different kind of America. His entire leftist philosophy is summed up in that one sentence.
He continued, “It says what the states can’t do to you, it says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted. One of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributed change, and in some ways we still suffer from that.”
In fact, the Constitution explicitly limits the powers of the government because the Founders feared radical activists like Mr. Obama. But it is those same limits from which Mr. Obama would like us to “break free.” No wonder he’ll take any opportunity to get the words “Constitution” and “negative” in the same sentence.
In their wisdom, the Founders designed an elegantly simple and effective system of checks and balances so no single branch —no single person — could amass tyrannical control. Justice Scalia was a powerful check within a check. He was a bulwark for the Constitution, the rule of law and individual liberty. He was a bulwark against the likes of Mr. Obama.
In blocking Mr. Obama’s choice for the court, Senate Republicans will honor Justice Scalia’s fearless discharge of his constitutional duties and carry out their own. They have bent to Mr. Obama’s (often unconstitutional) will enough.
The future of the Supreme Court is the future of the country. This is precisely the hill on which to battle. Republicans must fight as if the Constitution depends on it, because it does.
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