The title of Justice Neil Gorsuch’s new book, due out Tuesday September 10th, will be familiar to every Tea Partier: A Republic, If You Can Keep It.
The book is a collection of essays, speeches, past opinions, and thoughts on the separation of powers, civil liberties, and the role of judges under the Constitution. Gorsuch believes originalism and textualism are the best guides to interpreting the Constitution and protecting our freedoms.
Justice Gorsuch is “everything conservatives hoped for and liberals feared,” the liberal dean of the UCal Berkeley law school, Erwin Chemerinsky, told the Washington Post. While on the Supreme Court, Gorsuch voted to uphold the travel ban on certain Muslim and other countries, to add a citizenship question to the census, and to allow a ban on transgenders in the military to go into effect. But he is a maverick, sometimes siding with the liberals, for example, in a case overturning a precedent allowing local and federal prosecutions for the same offense. Gorsuch is not afraid to revisit the Court’s earlier jurisprudence. In his two terms on the Court, he has voted to overturn, or suggested taking a fresh look at, established precedent 11 times.
But the most interesting aspect of the book to me is the connection he draws between civic education and mutual respect in political discourse on the one hand, and self-governance and popular sovereignty on the other. He is distressed that people don’t understand the basics of the separation of powers. “Only about a third of Americans can identify the three branches,” Gorsuch told the Washington Post. “Another third can only name one branch of government.” Ten percent thinks Judge Judy serves on the Supreme Court, he went on to say.
Gorsuch is worth reading because he discusses the duty of every American to help maintain the Republic. It is not a given we will always have a Republic. It takes work to maintain one. It’s either that or go back to having a tiny elite rule over us because we are too lazy to govern ourselves.
Gorsuch is also worth reading because he is young - he just turned 52 - and prolific: he writes more pages of opinions than any other Justice currently sitting on the Court. This is somebody who is going make his mark on constitutional jurisprudence well into the next generation. He will influence the direction of the Court and the country on important issues of public policy for decades to come.
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