The issue for many originalists, of course, is not whether a prior decision is “correct,” but whether the reasoning/holding of that case is based on a plausible interpretation of the constitutional text at issue. If it is, and a substantial body of case law has been built upon the foundation of this decision, then it is perfectly reasonable for a justice to let that precedent stand as is (even if that justice would have ruled differently as a matter of first impression). But this type of “hard” originalist case is not at the center of the “stare decisis” debate. The question, plainly put, is this: At what point does it cease to matter that a prior Supreme Court decision is nonsense on stilts?
For those of us in the (Clarence) Thomas Camp, the answer is: Never. A Supreme Court decision that has no basis in the text, history, or structure of the Constitution is always and forever a judicial abomination, no matter how much time passes (e.g., Dred Scott v. Sandford, Plessy v. Ferguson). For the Burkean originalist (see, e.g., Scalia), the answer is: It depends on whether the line of jurisprudence is no longer controversial (i.e., it has essentially become woven into the fabric of the Constitution—whatever in the heck that means). Finally, for the living constitutionalist, the answer is: It depends on whether the decision in question enshrines into the Constitution a preferred policy preference (e.g., Roe v. Wade=Stare decisis is sacrosanct!; Bowers v. Hardwick= Stare decisis is fo’ suckas). In comparing the foregoing approaches to constitutional interpretation, it doesn’t take a law degree to recognize which one is concerned with, well, actual interpretation of the relevant text.
Is he serious? If Feddie's criteria for when to respect precedent is whether "the reasoning/holding of that case is based on a plausible interpretation of the constitutional text at issue," then both Plessy and Dred Scott are simply terrible examples. Both are perfectly plausible interpretations of the constitutional text, structure, and especially history. The outcomes are not the only plausible outcomes, but legally they are not "nonsense on stilts". What those cases have in common is that they are both morally abhorrent (like, to a different degree, Bowers was). Which is why Feddie cites them. But that logic is the definition of impermissible "policy-making" as per Feddie's final paragraph.
This is the problem with how conservative judicial philosophy is actually practiced. For all its protestations of objectivity and neutrality, the policy tails completely wag the theoretical dog. Anyone who tries to sell you on the notion that Dred Scott was completely disconnected from "the law" is selling you the legal equivalent of the Brooklyn Bridge. There are plenty of grounds -- indeed, plenty of legal grounds -- to critique Dred Scott. But claiming it violates some mythical "just the facts, ma'am" vision of law is not one of them. Pretending otherwise is what happens when you, well, think the Constitution enshrines preferred policy preferences.