If you’ve been following the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, you’ve probably learned something about “originalism.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “The theory that the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted based on the intent of its authors, as determined by examining evidence of their understanding of the meaning of its wording in its historical context.” An essay in New York magazine, which doesn’t purport to be unbiased on the subject, asserts that “originalism is less a humble method for settling constitutional disputes than a parlor trick for recasting the conservative movement’s unpopular agenda as the minimum demanded by constitutionality.” 

The antonym of “originalism” is sometimes referred to as “modernism” and views the Constitution as a “living…

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