Former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (1936-2016) was deeply conservative. Yet many liberals admired his intellect and his way with words. He was gregarious, and many liberals even considered him a great friend. Even with his biting opinions, he could make liberals think more deeply about their own positions and how to argue them more persuasively.
It was not so much what Justice Scalia was saying, but how he formed his arguments that many liberals and conservatives found impressive. The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away in September, said this about Scalia in 2009: “I disagreed with most of what he said, but I loved the way he said it.”
Although Scalia may have sometimes expressed thoughts in a rude or off-putting way, he made us think. We can all value someone who presents ideas in a way that helps us consider and strengthen our own.
In order to truly believe in something, one needs to believe even more why the opposing side does not work. This is helpful to form clear arguments and not turn to emotional logic. Liberals need people like Scalia to test values and help reevaluate the reasons for certain beliefs.
Scalia was passionate about protecting the U.S. Constitution. Our society needs justices on the bench that are passionate about upholding the Constitution – that is their job. Although one may not agree with Scalia’s mindset or rulings, it would be unfair to say that what he accomplished was unworthy, considering that he fulfilled his duties in the way that he believed was best.
Not only did Scalia get along with Justice Ginsburg, but after his passing other liberals came to highlight his attributes as well. Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) said, “Clearly he was a brilliant man, a very colorful man, a very outspoken man.” He also added, "I happen to respect people who are willing to come under public scrutiny and serve their country.”
Scalia and Sanders had major differences. However, Scalia showed by example that you can still maintain respect for those who oppose your values.
When not working on the bench, Scalia was known for his humor and playfulness. Geoffrey Stone, a close colleague with Scalia at the University of Chicago Law School with whom Scalia “agreed about almost nothing”, recalled their monthly poker nights: “He wanted to have us play games that were off the beaten path. One of them he got a kick out of was insisting we play a version of poker where each player would hold a card on their forehead where other players could see their card, but the holder was blind. So he got a kick out of things like that, and was a fun person to have engaged.”
Scalia’s ability to get along with those on the other side made him admirable. Especially today, where our political parties are more divided than ever, we can all learn from him to put the disagreements aside and build respectful bonds with our political opponents.
Although Scalia was not revered by the left as much as the right, all of us can value his ability to question our beliefs, and we can recognize his undeniable passion to protect perhaps the most important document the United States has today.
Bella Jasper is currently a high school student who is deeply interested in politics and journalism. In her writing, she hopes to provide a sense of commonality in politics. Bella has a Lean Left bias.
This piece was edited by AllSides.com Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), and was reviewed by James Coan (Center) of Braver Angels.
Image Credit: Jim Gill / ThisIsCommonSense.com