Looking into the exploits of Antonin Scalia

Donovan Roudabush, Staff Writer

On Feb. 13, in Shafter, TX, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia died of natural causes at a luxury ranch resort. His death has brought up a large amount of reverence for the judge who was appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1982, but  also has caused a lot of eyes turned towards President Obama in the hopes he will appoint a more liberal justice. Yet one discussion has been left in the dark since he left: what was his legacy? Was he really all that great?

For many, he was known to be one who could not hold his tongue, both in curated decisions and off-the-cuff remarks. Shortly before his death, he was quoted as claiming that he relished in writing dissents because that was when he could simply convey his opinion without having to worry about swaying votes. He sure loved to convey his opinion — often being direct but flowery, which the media sure ate up. Former President George W. Bush once called Scalia a “towering figure and important judge on our nation’s highest court.” Within this quote, it is easy to conclude he was a true textualist hero. Let’s look more into Scalia’s most cherished comments.

In Obergefell V. Hodges, Scalia fiercely rejected the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision to legalize gay marriage last June. Despite the court finding state-level bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, he called the ruling a “threat to American democracy,” accusing his fellow justices of acting as live elected officials rather than neutral arbiters. He penned his opinion, “Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the supreme court … robs the people of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.” In that regard, does the freedom to govern ourselves give us the right to discriminate based on sexual orientation? To deny them their rights as a citizen? This directly contradicts his beloved Constitution, which says that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among those are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Keeping same-sex marriage illegal doesn’t help anybody, it only prevents their unalienable rights.

Right before this ruling, Scalia loudly voiced his objection towards Obamacare, or also known as SCOTUScare (SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of the United States),as he referred to it. Effectively saving the disputed law a second time, the Supreme Court found in King v. Burwell that the federal tax credits that help nearly 6.4 million Americans pay for their health insurance plans are legal under the Affordable Care Act. In his disapproval, he said, “We should call this SCOTUScare,” asserting that the language of the Affordable Care Act clearly prohibited the subsidies, and he called the majority’s argument “quite absurd” and “interpretive jiggery-pokery.” He additionally noted, ““The cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.” This is garden-variety conservative disagreement, a simple derailment disguised as moral objection. This highlights Scalia’s true agenda of pulling the “Big Government” card in attempt to revert to fundamentalist America. A couple of hundred years have shown how personal responsibility and limited institutional involvement really works, huh?

This time in the majority opinion, Scalia struck down the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Alongside the 5-4 vote in June 2012, nine southern states were enabled to revise their voting laws without any government approval. Texas and other states soon proceeded with controversial voter identification laws. Originally designed to protect against racial discrimination during the voting process, Scalia and other justices argued that it didn’t reflect the “current conditions,” as Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court’s decision on Shelby County v. Holder. Scalia described the key provisions of the act as an “embedded form” of “racial preferment.” At the University of California Washington Center during a speech, Scalia said, “Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes … Even the name of it is wonderful, the Voting Rights Act. Who’s going to vote against that?” According to good pal Scalia, nothing is worse than giving protection from powerful closeted bigots like him. 

Additionally in the same timespan, Scalia voted to uphold controversial parts of the Arizona Immigration laws, claiming we must, “protect its sovereignty – not in contradiction of federal law, but in complete compliance with it.” Luckily, Scalia was in the minority for this one, as the law was struck down 5-3. Although this occurred, police were still given orders to perform background checks at regular traffic stops. Scalia said the court decision “boggles his mind,” given that President Barack Obama was moving to end deportations of young adults brought into the country illegally. Scalia commented, “If securing its territory in this fashion is not within the power of Arizona, we should cease referring to it as a sovereign state.” This decision follows the same narrative as the aforementioned: naturalism disguised as the power of the people.

In his most controversial decision, he ruled with the 5-4 majority for the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commision case. This case is very important because it opened the spending floodgates for U.S. political campaigns. The Supreme Court ruled that political spending is protected under the First Amendment and, therefore, corporations and unions could spend unlimited amounts of money on political activities – so long as the spending is done independently of a party or individual candidate. Scalia expressed that he doesn’t “care who is doing the speech — the more the merrier.” This decision critically changed the U.S. economy, doubling political campaign spending to $468 million, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. Of that total spending, outside groups provided a half. Scalia had a simple solution for Americans who don’t appreciate the wave of political advertisements  overtaking the airwaves during election season: change the channel or turn off the TV. “People are not stupid,” he said. “If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.” Scalia failed to recognize the major error in his decision: allowing people of all spectrums to get involved and sway the interests of politicians. In a way, it’s how we get billionaires to fund mad extremists into the race. Except this year, we have a mad extremist who can fund himself.