Scalia and the Spirit of the First Amendment
The contradiction between Justice Antonin Scalia’s constitutional originalist jurisprudence and the views of the majority of the Wesleyan community has been emphasized in reactive conversation to more than a sufficient extent, including by yours truly. President Roth’s printed quote in the Argus, in which he argued that Wesleyan should host speakers “who don’t just preach to the choir,” exemplifies this widespread view.
Scalia’s upcoming lecture will allow for the right wing of the American political spectrum to be represented in the University’s political discourse. If right-wing discourse and activity occurs across the campus, it is often overshadowed by left-wing initiatives.
Scalia joined a majority of conservative justices in the Citizens United decision, which a large portion of the student body opposes. The sentiment against the decision is perhaps best exemplified by student support for and participation in the left-leaning Occupy Wall Street movement, which was replicated on a small scale in Usdan this past Thursday.
But Scalia is unlike the “typical conservative” that the Wesleyan student body generally opposes. He serves as a classic counterexample to the widespread perception of conservatives, especially those who associate with the Tea Party movement, as unenlightened denizens who support a detrimentally absolute variant of President Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economic policies. His biases and opinions, unlike those of many current politicians, are based on a strong and coherent intellectual foundation, rather than strict partisanship. Moreover, he constitutes one-ninth of perhaps the only deliberative body that is not beholden to the hyperpartisanship that has resulted in many a stalemate across Pennsylvania Avenue.
Ironically, his libertarian-leaning views may gain some traction with University students, based on his opinions on a couple of recent cases. If University students may not agree with him over Citizens United, many could agree on the unconstitutionality of flag desecration, California’s proposed video game ban, or both.
Scalia’s beliefs could indeed be applied to his visit to the University. The refusal to allow a distinguished legal scholar and justice from stating his views on the First Amendment would contradict the spirit of that very amendment.