Let’s Hope He’s Wrong

Charles Krauthammer predicts that as Chief Justice John Roberts would vote to uphold the infamous Roe v. Wade precedent. Krauthammer also makes the unintelligible claim that Roberts will be a “traditional conservative” who will move the court to the “left.”

If Krauthammer’s definition of “traditional conservatism” includes upholding Roe and moving the Supreme Court to the left, then I’m afraid Krauthammer is losing touch with what conservatism is.

“Roe v. Roberts” – by Charles Krauthammer


  • Jonathan Moorhead

    Denny, after reading Ann Coulter, I wonder if Krauthammer might be on to something.

    I read elsewhere that you teach hermeneutics. (1) How do you define hermeneutics; and (2) what books do you have your students read? Regards.

  • GL


    Because people employ terms differently I am unsure of how Krauthammer means “traditional conservative.” But based on some frequent descriptions of types of conservatives, I THINK I undertand his point. (But I may not.)

    Justice Thomas would be classified as an “activist,” meaning he wants to engage in judicial activism to overturn SCOTUS decisions that he believes were wrongly decided. The old term for a person who wants to change things in a a rightward direction was “reactionary.”

    In that same era, “conservative” referred to one who prefered the status quo. Those who wished “to conserve” did not like change of any sort. Liberals were those who favored change and revolutionaries were the equivalent to reactionaries, only on the Left.

    I suspect Krauthammer is referring to these traditional definitions. Roberts, by his own words, is a devotee of stare decisis, which suggets a preference for the status quo. Roberts explicitly said that his devotion to stare decisis meant that even a case wrongly decided deserved respect and deference. This is textbook “traditional conservativism,” meaning a reluctance to change.

    Justice Thomas believes in judicial activism as much as any liberal justice, but from the Right. Judicial activism resulted in the Roe v. Wade decision and anyone who hopes for its overturning also believes in judicial activism.

  • Denny Burk

    Hey Glenn,

    Thanks for the comment. This is indeed a battle over terminology. There is a profound difference between those who wish to conserve the status quo and those who wish to conserve the Constitution according to the framers original intent. I am defining traditional conservative according to the latter, whereas Krauthammer is not.

    I don’t want to argue over semantics, but I do think that the conservative base that re-elected George W. Bush expects conservative justices according to the latter definition. That means that they expect Justices who will be willing to overturn precedents if it means conserving the framers original intent. These kinds of conservatives are not the radical fringe of the Republican party, but the base of Bush’s support. Without them, there would never have been a second-term for Bush (think Ohio in November 2004 and the thousands who turned out because homosexual marriage was on the ballot). To the extent that Krauthammer can’t see this, he is losing touch.

    Denny Burk

  • Denny Burk

    Dear Jonathan,

    Thanks for your comment. Hermeneutics comes from the Greek hermeneuō which means to interpret or to explain. To put it simply, hermeneutics deals with interpreting and explaining texts.

    Two introductory textbooks to hermeneutics proper are as follows:

    Stein, Robert H. A Basic Guide to Interpreting the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994. ISBN: 0801021014.
    Virkler, Henry A. Hermeneutics: Principles and Processes of Biblical Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981 (4th printing: 1998). ISBN: 0-8010-2067-0.

    A standard text on bible study methods is the following:

    Traina, Robert. Methodical Bible Study: A New Approach to Hermeneutics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980. ISBN: 0-310-31230-2.

    All of those books are really helpful. There are more advanced ones available, but if you are just starting I recommend these.

    Denny Burk

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