Scalia’s legacy is more than law
Neil Joseph | Wednesday, February 17, 2016
I did not agree with a lot of Justice Antonin Scalia’s legal decisions and opinions. As a moderate but socially liberal college student, I disagreed with many of his viewpoints on various cases. Yet, with his passing this past weekend, I couldn’t help but think just how unique of a government figure he was.
Political views aside, I admire Scalia because he was different from almost every other person we see in government. A passionate man, he was never afraid to speak his mind for what he believed in. He had a set of principles he abided by and would not change his mind regardless of what he was confronted with.
Politicians today are some of the most fickle people we see. Constantly, we see candidates accuse each other of changing their opinions or deny the fact that they have. The reality is that all politicians change their minds. They want to get elected, to get to do the things they want to do and to be in power. Citizens today are so numb to politicians changing their positions on things to what is convenient or politically expedient that it isn’t really a big deal anymore.
Scalia, on the other hand, stuck to his principles for his entire career. This may have been difficult when he disagreed with the decisions people wanted him to make, but he rarely, if ever, relented. Granted, it was easier for Scalia to stick to his convictions because he didn’t have to answer to voters at the end of two, four or six years.
I admire Scalia because of his willingness to adhere to a strict set of principles and values. I don’t necessarily agree with his legal views, but few, if any, judges have been able to stick to their convictions like he did. Few are authentic enough to realize that sometimes a set of principles will lead you to a decision or situation you don’t necessarily agree with. That happened for Scalia. He would seemingly randomly agree with liberal justices on certain cases when other conservative justices would not because of his interpretation of the Constitution. I’m sure that wasn’t easy for him, but he did it anyway.
Furthermore, I’m consistently amused by Scalia’s strong friendship with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. It baffles me. The politics we see today are vitriolic and harsh. It’s hard to imagine President Obama and Paul Ryan being friends or Jeb Bush and Donald Trump being friends. Then again, it’s difficult to imagine Donald Trump being friends with anyone. Yet two people who interacted and disagreed with each other vehemently on a daily basis managed to be best friends.
Ginsberg is one of the most progressive judges the court has ever seen, while Scalia was one of the most conservative in recent history. They managed to put politics aside, realizing that opinions were merely opinions. In doing so, they didn’t let their branch of government fall into the same confrontational and nasty politics we see in the other two.
At the end of the day, Scalia exemplified what we should want all of our politicians to be. He had a set of principles that he believed our country should be living by. He consistently did what he thought was best for our country in the present and in the future, and he didn’t let politics get in the way of what was truly important to him.
His legacy should teach all politicians that the most important thing is standing up for what you believe in. Whether that’s liberal, conservative or something totally different, it doesn’t matter. People are in politics because at their core, they want to make our country better. Politics is only at its best, however, when it is an exchange of ideas between people who are passionate about what they believe in.
Our system only works when people can defend their positions and are consistent about them when attacked by opponents. That’s what Scalia did and he never relented. That’s the legacy he leaves behind.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.