Monday, February 15, 2016

The Importance of Scalia

Here are two excellent articles on Scalia and what his death means, by Ross Douthat and Rod Dreher.  Between the both of them, they summarize pretty well my thoughts and feelings (especially Dreher).

I would only add that Scalia's death reminds me of what James Boswell said of Johnson in his "Life of Samuel Johnson":
“He has made a chasm, which not only nothing can fill, but which nothing has a tendency to fill up. Johnson is dead. Let us go to the next best — there is nobody; no man can be said to put you in mind of Johnson.”  

Excerpts below, but both are worth reading in full.

We know we’re losing, and that we are going to lose. But there was something heroic in knowing that the wiser man was standing there in the arena telling his colleagues on the Court, and indeed the entire nation, exactly what they were doing. The cause may have been lost — and on this, Scalia had this Court’s number from virtually the beginning — but with Scalia on the Court, we marched into exile with our heads held high, knowing that the stronger army won, but not the better one.
In an emotional sense, for me, Scalia functioned as a kind of keystone holding up the crumbling arc of the Republic. I know: he lost these morally significant cases having to do with the dignity of life and the meaning of marriage, even though he did not fight them on moral grounds, but on legal, democratic ones. And yes, I know that Scalia was himself no kind of unifying figure that keeps the entire structure from falling down, as a keystone does. What I’m trying to convey is what it feels like to experience his loss from the point of view of a religious and social conservative. As I said, there was something of a restraining force about him — maybe by the power of his prose and his intellect, and the strength of his conviction. 
Antonin Scalia, dead unexpectedly this weekend at 79, was not the most politically powerful justice during his three decades on the Supreme Court. That distinction belonged to the court’s two swing votes, Sandra Day O’Connor and then Anthony M. Kennedy, respectively the philosopher queen and king of our fraying republican order.
Unlike them, Scalia did not have the opportunity to write all his preferences into the law of the land. For every victory he won, there was a sharp defeat; for every important majority opinion a stinging, quotable dissent. And on the issues he cared the most about – abortion, above all – his defeats were famous and his dissents often not just eloquent but anguished.
 But in every other respect, he was the most important Supreme Court justice of his era.

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