Welcome To The Party

There's a cool piece on the conservative critique of the criminal justice system in the Times. Two things caught my eye for different reasons. First this from Ed Meese:

In an interview at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group where he is a fellow, Mr. Meese said the "liberal ideas of extending the power of the state" were to blame for an out-of-control criminal justice system. "Our tradition has always been," he said, "to construe criminal laws narrowly to protect people from the power of the state."

It's true that a lot of Democrats supported the War on Drugs. But this strikes me as willfully ignorant of conservatism, with its regard for tradition, order and institutions, more authoritarian impulses. I'm sure some of you have the specific math on Meese. And then this:

The roots of the conservative re-examination of crime policy might also be found in the jurisprudence of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. The two justices, joined by liberal colleagues, have said the original meaning of the Constitution required them to rule against the government in, among other areas, the rights of criminal defendants to confront witnesses.

"Scalia and Thomas are vanguards of an understanding by the modern right that its distrust of government extends all the way to the criminal justice system," said Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University.

This was left dangling. I didn't get a sense of how Scalia or Thomas actually have changed things, short of swinging way too far right on criminal justice. Or too far left, according to Meese.


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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