The U.S. Supreme Court’s decades-long lurch to the hard right may finally have come to a blessed end with the sudden death of its most vocal wingnut, Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Albany Law School professor Vincent M. Bonventre nailed Scalia’s “abhorrent” record: “His position on gay rights was homophobic, on racial discrimination it was hostile to African Americans, and on the death penalty it was medieval.”
But never mind whether or not you agree with Scalia’s far-right-wing opinions. What has infuriated me most over the last decade or two of his damaging stint on the High Court wasn’t the hate; it was the hypocrisy.
After Scalia unexpectedly passed away in February, Republicans quickly vowed to ignore the Constitution by refusing to allow President Obama to appoint a successor. They sent out a fundraising letter describing their dearly departed as “an unwavering champion of our nation’s Constitution and an outspoken defender of the original intent of our Founders’ writings.”
The claim—oft uttered by Scalia himself and reiterated ad nauseum by the corporate media since his death—that he believed only in an “originalist,” or literal, interpretation of the Constitution was and is horseshit. Love him or hate him, the truth is Scalia was more than happy to ignore the Constitution’s words whenever it suited his partisan political whims.
As Washington Monthly contributor Michael O’Donnell wrote in a 2014 review of Bruce Allen Murphy’s Scalia: A Court of One, “More and more, [Scalia] seemed willing to bend his own rules to achieve conservative results in areas of concern to social conservatives, like affirmative action, gay rights, abortion, gun ownership and the death penalty. Above all, Scalia stopped trying to persuade others. He became the judicial equivalent of Rush Limbaugh.”