The Supreme Court is not a hero, and the conservative movement is not a damsel in distress.
This is one concept Congressman Paul Ryan (WI) discussed in his Independence Day Address, which he delivered at Hillsdale College’s Kirby Center this past Tuesday.
In the wake of recent Supreme Court decisions favoring religious liberty, conservatives could fall into the trap of putting their hope in a panel of judicial experts. This is a tendency that Ryan warned against in his final remarks:
“Finally, there is the temptation to ask courts to intervene and solve our problems for us. Some conservatives think of judges the way Progressives think of bureaucrats: technical experts with the solutions to constitutional conflicts. But judges, like bureaucrats, are often the problem. We must be mindful of this temptation. It is true the Supreme Court can be an ally in conflicts surrounding the constitution. But, it can also be an adversary.”
Personally, the image of the Supreme Court as an adversary quickly brings the Roe V. Wade decision to mind. This decision legalized abortion and denied millions of Americans their right to life outside the womb. The Pro-Life movement would decidedly argue that, in the case of Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court was an opponent of fundamental Constitutional and human rights.
Paul Ryan continued his statement, saying, “Let’s remember that under our Constitution of self-government, the court that really counts is the court of public opinion, where the American people hand down their verdict on Election Day.”
Congressman Ryan’s cautionary statements ring true. While each Supreme Court decision that upholds religious freedom and human life ought to be celebrated and encouraged, conservatives must not begin to neglect the importance of public opinion. The battle of ideas—whether concerning abortion, religious liberty or any other hot-button issue—is still taking place every day on Capitol Hill, in schools, and at the family dinner table.
This call to continue working to win the hearts and minds of Americans should leave conservatives throughout the country with a sense of empowerment, not discouragement. Each individual has the opportunity to reach out to his or her neighbor. Through conversations about political or moral dilemmas, acts of service, or prayer, individuals have the ability to impact the culture more fully than any Supreme Court decision.
The truth is that the conservative movement doesn’t need the Supreme Court as its hero. Rather than putting trust in institutions, conservatism draws its strength from individuals who carry out their duty and charity in faith that America will be blessed because of it. Hopefully the Supreme Court will sustain this renewed commitment to honor the Constitution and the American citizens. But whether it does or not, we must continue to stand firm and champion conservative ideals to a nation that desperately needs them.