Speaking before All Others: Interpretation as the Suppression of Disagreement
The outraged criticisms of Attorney General Meese's speech described in the preceding chapter have their judicial analogue in the Supreme Court's reaction to state laws challenging Roe v. Wade. In 1992, twenty years after Roe was decided, the Court emphatically reaffirmed the holding that abortion is a constitutionally protected right in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Noting the sustained public resistance to its initial abortion decision, the Court said that to overrule Roe while "under fire" would threaten "the character of a Nation of people who aspire to live according to the rule of law." 1 Referring to the rest of us, the justices continued: "Their belief in themselves as such a people is not readily separable from their understanding of the Court invested with the authority to . . . speak before all others for their constitutional ideals."
Here, as in a late-night fit of drunken sentimentality, is revealed an important and disturbing truth about the self-image of some members of our high Court. They believe that judicial sovereignty over constitutional issues is essential, not just to the Court's power or to the practical workings of government, but to our sense of ourselves as a people. Our submission to the authority of the Court-which is to "speak before all others" -- is crucial to our very character as a nation. In a mystical transposition, we are obligated to let it define us.