Strict constructionalism is the term used to describe a literal or strict reading of the United States Constitution. The other side of the coin is typically termed judicial activism. Strict constructionalism simply means that nothing should be read into the Constitution that isn’t clearly already there, such as special rights for one segment of the population. A broad interpretation instead of a strict reading often leads to creating new rights or to rewriting policy.
In fact, the Framers wrote the Constitution to limit the power of the Federal government. They believed that certain rights were inalienable, inherent, and therefore should never be violated by the government. In other words, the Constitution was not written to give rights, but to protect them from infringement. All powers not granted to the federal government were to lie with the several states and therefore with the people.
Strict constructionalism is a judicial philosophy that adheres to the Constitution as written, rather than interpreting it to keep up with the times. Where the Document is unclear, strict constructionalism attempts to ascertain the Framers’ intent through letters and other documents from the time of the Constitution’s creation.
The document is to be read and upheld according to the common understanding of its language, as the wording was used at the time of its creation. Strict constructionalism does not allow for a loose reading of the Constitution or for adaptation that does not fit with the Framers’ intent. Strict constructionalism protects states' rights and conforms to the principle that the Constitution must be amended rather than broadly interpreted, in order to address those issues that are not covered in word or by intent.
To bend from this principal is to lessen the strength of the Constitution. When the judiciary steps outside Constitutional parameters, where does it stop? If certain issues that are clearly not addressed in the Constitution can be “read into it,” then before long any issue can find protection under it.
When the highest courts lean one way politically, judicial activism might seem like a good thing to those who agree with the judges and justices making decisions. However, as new justices with different values are appointed, they aren't as likely to be comfortable with loose interpretations.
Strict constructionalism is often described as a right leaning trait, but it isn’t about party affiliation; it’s about strictly following the Constitution rather than allowing either party to determine the law of the land based on their own ideology.