Originalism Is For Progressives
Jack Balkin returns to the issue of originalism and why progressives should embrace it:
Doug Kendall and Jim Ryan's essay in the New Republic makes the eminently sensible point that progressives should stop viewing originalism as the enemy just because they have come to associate it with people they disagree with politically. Instead, they should recognize that originalism is the right approach for progressives as well as conservatives . . .
It's important to remember that before Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, there was Hugo Black, one of the great liberal defenders of the Bill of Rights, who made originalist arguments for the positions he took. Originalism is not the interpretive philosophy of stand patters. It is the philosophy of people who want to restore and redeem the Constitution's promises in a world where they have been forgotten or disrespected. . . . If liberals think that the current generation of conservative judges have hijacked the Constitution and twisted its meaning, they shouldn't respond by callling for a counter-hijacking. Rather they should follow the example of Hugo Black. They should call for a return to first principles, to the best interpretation of the Constitution's original meaning and underlying values. They should be originalists once again.Many progressive scholars avoid these conclusions because they know that life is change. They are worried that originalism means giving up the idea of a living constitution-- a constitution that adapts to changing times. Nothing could be further from the truth, as I have explained here and here. Properly understood, fidelity to original meaning and living constitutionalism are not opposed positions. They are two sides of the same coin.
Indeed. I have agreed with Professor Balkin on this point for a while, most notably here.
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