Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, is an “originalist.” Given that originalism is a term coined by lawyers, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are many different flavors of originalism. But, as Barrett explained in her confirmation hearings, they all share the basic idea that the meaning of the Constitution can be found in the Constitution.
“So in English,” she explained, “that means that I interpret the Constitution as a law, that I interpret its text as text and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it. So that meaning doesn’t change over time. And it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.”
I don’t understand why this should be a difficult concept to understand. And yet for some people, it remains not only incomprehensible but utterly contemptible.
Dan Rather, who for decades at CBS News cast himself as a neutral reporter of facts, declared on Twitter the other day: “If you want to be an ‘originalist’ in law, maybe you should go all the way. Cooking on a hearth. Leeches for medicine. An old mule for transportation. Or maybe you can recognize that the world changes.”