Why is Charles Fried Still Quoted as a Conservative?

Why is Charles Fried Still Quoted as a Conservative?

NPR’s Nina Totenberg filed a story summing up the Supreme Court’s contentious recent term. In covering Shelby County v. Holder, the decision to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act, Totenberg managed to find some conservatives who disagreed with the ruling. One of those was Harvard Law School professor Charles Fried, who is frequently cited as a conservative because he was Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general.

Yet if Fried remains a conservative, he is one far out of touch with conservative thought and politics today. That might be partly because, as some on the left and in the center say, the Republican Party has become more conservative than it was thirty years ago. 

Yet there is hardly a conservative–now or then–who could defend voting for Barack Obama, as Fried did, or justifying some of his worst policies, notably Obamacare.

Fried famously told Congress that the Constitution permitted the federal government to require Americans to buy broccoli–that, essentially, there were no limits to its powers under the commerce clause. 

Ultimately, the Supreme Court rejected that argument in holding that the individual mandate was unconstitutional under the commerce clause (but, bizarrely and infamously, constitutional under the taxation power).

Fried told Totenburg the Court was wrong on the Voting Rights Act because “we’re not there yet” on racial voting disparaties. Perhaps that’s true in Fried’s Massachusetts, which has the largest racial gap, but it’s not true elsewhere. 

Of course, Fried’s experience and authority mean that his opinions are often newsworthy. But they are not usually conservative, and citing them as such drowns out conservative views.