The former Supreme Court justice proposes constitutional changes to restore the old republic.
Provocative only begins to describe Stevens’ (Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir, 2011, etc.) program. Perhaps the most controversial is the constitutional amendment that, after surveying the history of amendments generally, he saves for last—namely, to rewrite the Second Amendment so that it indisputably speaks to the intention of the Founders: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.” The italics are Stevens’—the strongest reaction to this proposed change is sure to come from devoted NRA members. In fact, that change would likely spell political suicide if forwarded by a sitting elected legislator, but Stevens, retired from the bench for several years, is above the fray. He can therefore safely advance another likely nonstarter, given the prevailing circumstances: another amendment, this one prohibiting partisan gerrymandering of legislative districts, which allowed the Democrats to win the plurality of votes but the Republicans to control the House in the last election. Though clearly of blue-state leanings, Stevens is evenhanded: He no more approves of Democratic gerrymandering than Republican. The author’s prose is sometimes lawyerly, but more often, it is plain and to the point: “[T]here is no reason why partisans should be permitted to draw lines that have no justification other than enhancing their own power.” That plain talk extends to his arguments for limiting money given to those in power—overturning Citizens United in the bargain—and controlling states-rightist impulses to nullify federal authority and declare sovereign immunity.
A refreshing set of opinions. One wishes that other retired justices would speak their minds so clearly, providing well-crafted arguments for others to take up.