Over the past decades, the notion of conservatism in the context of both social and judicial aspects of American life has gained a rather negative perception due to its correlation with more radical executions of the following philosophy. However, the manifestations of conservative values in a more pressured way have minor characteristics in common, including the values embodied in the idea. Conservatism itself can be defined as a political and social philosophy based upon the principles of traditionalism, federalism, and individualism that create a basis for an independent state development (Quinton, 2017). Thus, the following perception of governance and power is primarily associated with the avoidance of radical change and severe interferences in the state legislature patterns. For this reason, the notion of the judicial system within the context is a relatively questionable concern that requires close examination in terms of its role in the contemporary conservative US outlook. The primary purpose of the following paper is to analyze the role of the Supreme Court in the overall conservative system, paying specific attention to the Constitution interpretation, judicial vision, and debate in the modern context.
Judiciary’s Role in Constitution Interpretation
Since its very genesis, the conservative branch has placed a major emphasis on the issue of law and order, seeking justice for the state residents and abiding by the Constitutional dogmas. However, when talking about the overall patterns of judicial governance within the state, the question of innovation and system reconsideration is frowned upon, as the fundamentals of traditionalism do not encourage drastic change in the legislative aspect of state leadership. On the contrary, conservatism is reassured that the judiciary paradigm should remain unchanged for as long as possible to establish a working system of communication with fellow residents. As a result, there are currently two notions that might be discussed in the context of the judiciary’s interpretation of the Constitution: judicial activity and judicial restraint (Rubin, 2017). These notions are considered to be antonymic in their nature, as judicial activity presupposes introducing change to the existing Constitutional law interpretation, while the opposite term concerns adhering to the established legal provisions. Moreover, the idea promoted by judicial restraint is the fact of judges limiting their power to give more authority to the law itself.
Speaking of the notion of Constitutional law in the context, it becomes evident that the idea of the aforementioned activism is not supported by conservationists for a number of reasons. One of them is related to their inability to accept the role of a judge in such a setting, as activism presupposes rationalization of the case considering the given context. That is, the interpretation of the Constitution appears to be overly agile, making society question the adequacy of the law that might be modified in accordance with the given situation (Nagel, 2019). Conservatism, in its turn, is more focused on keeping Constitutional law unmodified in the absolute majority of cases, which leads to a common belief in the philosophy’s tight correlation with constitutionalism that praises the superiority of federal law within the system.
In fact, such an approach is considered to be rather acceptable due to the Constitution’s humanistic approach to state governance. According to the field researchers, at the moment, there is no definite answer to the question of the judiciary’s role in Constitution interpretation (Nagel, 2019). Thus, considering the aforementioned factors, it might be concluded that the only issue that should be regarded in the context shall not concern one of the approaches to law interpretation, emphasizing the ways to achieve non-ambiguous efficiency instead.
State and Federal Governments
The question of federalism and federal liberty within the US has always been one of the major conservationists’ concerns due to their desire to give local authorities more power and self-governance opportunities. Researchers claim that such a tendency emerged due to the tight correlation of conservatism and traditionalism, which presupposes abiding by the traditional governance and judiciary patterns in a diachronic perspective (Rubin, 2017). Thus, the genesis of American society is marked by a high level of diversity and a considerable number of self-governance bodies across the state that demanded authority and recognition. As a result, the pattern of governance had to adopt a federalist model to meet the residents’ expectations.
The legal justification of such an approach is displayed in the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution. The text of the following amendment proclaims the recognition of the states’ authority in terms of individual affairs not preconditioned by the US Constitution (U.S. Const. amend. X). According to the secondary data collected on the matter over the years, it is estimated that the primary purpose of the amendment creation, along with the genesis of the Bill of Rights, was encouraged by the Anti-Federalists’ fear of national consolidation and loss of individual state power (Ackerman, 2019). As a result, the following amendment has become one of the fundamentals of a conservative judicial system driven by recognition of autonomy and privacy of state affairs. The whole vision of governance is then defined by the conservatists’ aim to establish a balance between federal and state legislature, preventing the latter from the will imposed by the national government. The issue is especially evident in the examples of the legal cases authorized by the Supreme Court.
Supreme Court’s Vision
As it was previously mentioned, the overall judiciary and presence of the Constitutional amendments in the federal legislative system create a foundation for the conservationists’ execution of their core values. Thus, the Supreme Court, being the most powerful judicial body in the US, when driven by conservationists, tends to abide by similar values and rationalizes its decisions with the help of individualistic resolutions and legal documents. One of the most notorious examples of such behavior is the case of South Dakota v. Dole (1987), which concerns the issue of estimating the minimum drinking age across the US states. The results of this case were primarily justified by the provisions of the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution, claiming that such a legal decision shall not be imposed by the federal government, as it was not explicitly addressed in Constitution.
Another example that shows a similar attitude is the legal case Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority (1985), the resolution of which declared the extension of the Fair Labor Standards Act to the state and local governments. In terms of the following legal investigation, the aforementioned Constitutional amendment contributed to securing states’ authority to estimate minimum wage and overtime pay in the area based upon the financial aspects of local development. Considering the following examples, it might be concluded that the Supreme Court’s conservatism vision of the issue could be regarded from two major perspectives. The first aspect of perception claims such an approach to be highly individualistic and beneficial for local residents who rely on their own living standards. On the other hand, however, such a vivid distinction between states’ legislature leads to undermining the overall federal system of the nation. Moreover, the pattern of such actions is rather subjective, as it depends on the leading philosophy within the federal governmental branch.
Today’s perception of power and governance has been changed significantly if compared to the national leaders’ behavioral patterns from a few centuries ago. In fact, the connotative paradigm of both conservatism and liberalism has been modified in accordance with overall social development. Despite the notions’ development in the historical context, the debate has remained practically the same, claiming neither approach to be the right solution for state development. However, the one thing that might still be outlined in the setting is the overall tendency of the country’s federal unity establishment. In fact, the conservative perception of judicial justice has contributed to emphasizing the differences between the states and local authorities. While, on the one hand, such a process of self-identification is extremely beneficial for local authorities, the overall attempt to unify the nation has been severely affected by eliciting so many distinct features within the states. Hence, there is a minor chance to resolve the ongoing debate in both the social and judicial context in the short term.
Considering the modern connotation of conservatism in the United States, it might be concluded that its overall perception is rather ambiguous in each context related to social development and legislature. However, such ambiguity does not explicitly imply the inefficiency of the conservative system, as it still promotes some of the basic human rights and dogmas that are to be respected in terms of justice. Currently, some concerns in the following debate are based upon the wrongful perception of radical republican movements to be the conservatism model manifestation. The major focus of the issue, in its turn, should be placed on the establishment of a judiciary model that would benefit both the federal system of the nation and its fellow residents.
Ackerman, L. (2019). Tenth Amendment. Federalism-E, 20(1), 44-56.
Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority.  469 U.S. 528.
Nagel, R. F. (2019). Conservatism and constitutionalism in the United States. University of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper, 19(5), 1-22.
Quinton, A. (2017). Conservatism. A companion to contemporary political philosophy, 285-311.
Rubin, R. D. (2017). Judicial Review and American Conservatism. Cambridge University Press.
South Dakota v. Dole.  483 U.S. 203, 219.