Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Roberts Central Committee

This has been brewing for a couple of days, so it’s gonna be a long one:

You can’t tell me you were surprised by the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor. I saw it coming ten years ago to the day, the day AJ Anthony Kennedy issued the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas.

Forget for a minute — in fact, forget forever — all progressive triumphalism about being “on the right side of history” or “the inevitability of change”. Let there be one defeat or one setback, and suddenly they’re afraid the toothpaste can and will be put back in the tube.

The fact is, I knew eventually we’d see such a decision because progressives were constantly trying to reassure conservatives that the Lawrence decision would never lead to a right to same-sex marriage. It reminded me too much of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s gloss of the private adventurer: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

The fact is, I knew eventually we’d see such a decision because progressives are impatient consequentialists: they want to win now, and aren’t fussy about how it’s accomplished. Besides, things that progressives have said in the past lead me to suspect that progressives would prefer a central committee made up of right-thinking people rather than any truly representative form of government.

The Roberts Court is now as close to being that central committee as any non-communist government can have. The problem is not simply that, as in Lawrence, Roe v. Wade and many other cases, the Court’s decision is sloppily reasoned due to being driven by an agenda rather than the case’s merits. Rather, as AJ Antonin Scalia’s dissent points out, Windsor should not have come before the Court at all. In its rush to strike down DOMA, the judiciary stepped out of its jurisdiction.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The undeclared civil war

Prof. Robert Reich, UC-Berkeley.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has noticed that, in the absence of legislation from Washington, the states are pretty much fending for themselves. The problem is, according to his article in the Christian Science Monitor, “many blue states are moving further left, while red states are heading rightward. In effect, America is splitting apart without going through all the trouble of a civil war.”

Of course, Congressional conservative Republicans are to blame. They’ve shut Congress down, refused to play ball with Our Glorious Leader, and left the states to their own devices. But while this sudden absence of power in Washington has allowed blue states to do various worthy things like hike taxes on the rich, impose stricter gun regulations and legalize pot, it’s also allowed the evil red states to cut education and basic services, as well as allow anyone to carry a gun and shoot on sight.

So okay, maybe I exaggerate Reich’s liberal spin on the issues, but that he is a liberal is left to no one’s doubt. (Professor of public policy at UC-Berkeley? Go figure.)

“Federalism is as old as the Republic,” Reich remarks, “but not since the real Civil War have we witnessed such a clear divide between the states on central issues affecting Americans.” Trenchantly observed; and yet from the tenor of what follows, it appears that Reich can’t truly grasp its meaning. To Reich, it’s not so much that red and blue are going their separate ways but rather that red is having a hard time getting with the national program. Federalism is fine when Minnesota legalizes gay marriage and expands trade-union rights, but when Arizona allows state troopers to check the immigration status of suspected illegals, or North Carolina puts surcharges on hybrid and electric cars …? The idea that different values might be in play doesn’t seem to enter his mind.