MSNBC's Katy Tur: Is It 'Appropriate' to Take Originalist View of Constitution Since Americans Are More Progressive Now?

July 11, 2018

MSNBC host Katy Tur asked Wednesday whether an originalist interpretation of the Constitution was "appropriate" since Americans have become more progressive.

"Based on where Americans stand on the issues, and Americans have really moved in a much more progressive direction over the years, do you think it's appropriate to continue to take such a strict, originalist view of the Constitution, given it's 2018 and not 1776?" Tur asked Republican guest and Hillbilly Elegy author J.D. Vance.

"Well, I don't know that Americans have become more progressive on everything," Vance said. "Certainly, times have changed since 1776, but how you interpret the Constitution is ultimately different from what policy preferences you want, and this is a point that conservatives make pretty often about the Supreme Court, that whether you want the laws to move in a progressive or a conservative direction, the Supreme Court is a separate institution with a separate mandate under our constitutional structure."

While Tur's question and Vance's response referred to 1776, the year the Declaration of Independence was ratified, the Constitution was not written and signed until 1787.

Vance gave the example of the abortion debate, and whether it should be decided by the federal courts or voters and state legislatures.

"Well, the arc of history has shown that opinions have become more progressive, and even just lately on the issues that are potentially going to become before the court, or issues that have been ruled on relatively recently by the Court, Americans are more progressive," Tur said. "Look at the polling."

Tur cited surveys showing most Americans support the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion, although there are sharper divides over how expansive that right should be and how late into pregnancies it should be legal. She also said a majority want the Supreme Court to set limits on political campaign spending by corporations and unions.

Tur said President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had a "much stricter opinion" on those issues. She then accused conservatives of "trying to have their cake and eat it too" when Senate Republicans held up Merrick Garland's confirmation process in 2016, citing it being a presidential election year.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) has stated the Senate will have a vote this fall on the confirmation of Kavanaugh.

"It seems now the argument is no, the American people shouldn't have a choice," Tur said. "It's all about the Constitution. It feels like conservatives are trying to have their cake and eat it too on this issue."

"I'd segment what you think the proper public policy should be from what a constitutional Supreme Court should rule under our system, so I think Judge Kavanaugh's views about the Constitution are really what we should be talking about, not whether he wants to move us in a given public policy direction," Vance said.

Vance also echoed McConnell's response to critics of his decision to hold a vote on Kavanaugh after holding up Garland, noting McConnell specifically cited a presidential election year with Garland in 2016.