A majority of Americans (55%) now say the U.S. Supreme Court should base its rulings on what the Constitution “means in current times,” while 41% say rulings should be based on what it “meant as originally written,” according to a recent Pew Research Center report on American democratic values.
This represents a shift in public opinion, which was divided on this question for more than a decade. When Pew Research Center last asked the question in October 2016, 46% said the high court should base its rulings on what the document means in current times, while an identical share (46%) said rulings should be based on what it meant when originally written.
That’s a big jump in a short time. I wish I could tell you this was just another case of the left getting leftier — and it is, partly — but it’s not the whole story:
Pretty stable until 2014 or so. Then GOP support for a “living Constitution” drops dramatically, only to recover fully to 2014 levels this year. On the left it’s the opposite — support for a “living Constitution” is steady all the way up until this year, when suddenly it leaps. What gives?
Three things, I think. One: The GOP dip circa 2016 was probably an artifact of the election. “Save SCOTUS!” was the first (and most persuasive) item in the case to Never Trumpers to support Trump in the general election rather than stay home. The prospect of him nominating someone like Neil Gorsuch if he won the presidency might have naturally refocused Republican voters’ attention on the value of putting originalists on the Court. And of course the fate of the Court was no hypothetical that year: Scalia’s seat was vacant, with a new liberal majority in the offing if Hillary pulled out a win. It makes sense that righties would rekindle a romance with conservative jurisprudence in 2016 only to have it cool a bit now that the Court is safe again.
Two: The Democratic surge this year towards a “living Constitution” is probably an artifact of the post-Parkland push for gun control. There have been mass shootings in the past but the string of horrors that began last fall and ran through February was an endless nightmare — Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Stoneman Douglas High. A few months before Vegas, a gunman nearly massacred a group of Republican congressmen on a baseball field. The Second Amendment has been a hot topic for the worst possible reasons for almost a year. And because it addresses a technology that’s evolved a ton since the time the amendment was enacted, it’s also invariably a prime target in the “originalism versus living Constitution” debate. Liberals eager to grab guns and frustrated that the Second Amendment keeps getting in their way would naturally look to hurdle it by leaning further towards a “current times” reinterpretation of the Constitution. Whatever the Founders would have thought of AR-15s, a “modern” Second Amendment has no use for them and no difficulty allowing them to be banned.
Three: We should have deported America’s millennials ages ago like I’ve been telling people for years. The 18-29 crowd splits 64/33, almost two-to-one, in favor of a “current times” interpretation of the Constitution.
…although, as it turns out, the split among the next youngest age group, the 30-49 crowd, is statistically identical at 64/34. And the next youngest age group, the 50-64 demographic, is also narrowly in favor of the “current times” view, 49/47.
What I’m trying to say is that we should have the robots on standby to take over the country as soon as the last of the current senior citizens have died off.