Monday, June 27, 2005

The Paradox of Populism; Or why conservatives cannot pack the court


In Battle to Pick Next Justice, Right Says, Avoid a Kennedy - New York Times

Ever since the elevation of Earl Warren, Republican presidents have picked justices who disappoint the Republican faithful: William J. Brennan Jr. (President Dwight D. Eisenhower), Harry A. Blackmun (President Richard M. Nixon), John Paul Stevens (President Gerald R. Ford), Sandra Day O'Connor (President Reagan) and David H. Souter (the first President Bush).

One result is rage at what Mr. Bork sees as subverted democracy. Even though Republicans keep winning elections, he said, the court "can say that the majority may not rule" in areas where permissiveness reigns, including abortion, gay rights and pornography. Calling most justices "judicial oligarchs," Mr. Bork said they reflected "the intelligentsia's attitude, which is to the cultural left of the American people."


Conservatives: You want a small group of very smart, educated people to occupy positions of power so you select the likes of Justices Kennedy, O'Connor and Souter--who turn out not to be reliably conservative after all. You then complain that they lack "moral clarity" and do not represent the views of the masses. What do you expect: they aren't representative of the masses. They're very smart, educated people--that's why you put them on the Supreme Court--so they don't hold the dumb, simple-minded views of the masses. And, they're in for life so, unlike politicians they aren't (thank God) accountable to the masses. You can't win.

Liberals: You love the masses--you want not only to benefit them but to give them "voice." You respect their culture. But the masses detest you and reject all your dearest values--they're simple-minded, short-sighted, conventional, puritanical, sexist and bigoted. If you succeed in establishing an authentic democracy where they run the show--whether in the US or in the Middle East--they will install conservative policies that defeat your purposes. You can't win either.

I may be wrong but at least I'm consistent: the aim is to "kill the Indian to save the man." Make everyone a latte-drinking Liberal: not overwhelmingly difficult if you're prepared to spend the money on providing everyone with the security, standard of living and quality of education the elite now enjoy--and to recognize that you aren't doing disadvantaged people any favors by affirming their cultures or giving them "voice."

6 comments:

Boofykatz said...

Fundamentally flawed, I fear. You can lead a horse to water..
The enlightenment project begins and ends with a universal, and therefore state endorsed, improvement in social care and education. You cannot do it in bits. I don't know if you have ever read Fleming's 'Quantum of Solace'? I have always thought that our consignment of the dim and the difficult to a cultural dustbin implies a certain implicit willingness to eugenics - and let me be clear that I do not disapprove of eugenics per se, but with that commitment I would wish to see a humanitarian and patrician commitment to protect and nurture. There is a tension here between notions of autonomy and accountability.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

I don’t know about this latte drinking stuff. I was recently in San Diego, and there are a few Starbucks around, but most of the town seemed like a barrio to me. As I drove through those strange, foreaign-appearing streets—so different from the elegant simplicity of Boston, let alone the staid antiquity of Canterbury---down to Adams Ave bookshop, and then over to St Nicholas’s Orthodox church for vespers on Saturday, I had this strange sense of déjà vu all over again: where had I seen this place. Then it hit me: all those videos of the Rodney King riots! Granted the Episcopal cathedral, where I wen t fo evensong on Sunday, is situated in an island ofnear-normalcy, but it doesn’t ring true—it’s as false as all those lawns and fountains in what should be desert.

Anyway, it’ll be a helluva job getting those folks to drink latte.

And another thing---what’s up with that crazy Mormon temple? Haven’t you people ever heard of zoning?

H. E. said...

You should have looked me up. Maybe you can drop by next February for our Society of Christian Philosophers Conference. All invited--we hope the "Around San Diego" link is a draw.

As for elevating the masses, latte happens. Pump a little EU money into traditionally backward countries on the periphery of Europe and pious Catholics morph into secular liberal Europeans.

Brian Larry said...

Many of the educated (at least on paper) acquired their degree in search of the very things you believe the government should provide. What would have been their motivation if these things had been their birthright in this country? Some young people admittedly attend college because that's what you do in their family and some are there to actually learn something.

But...Eliminate those who are educated because they sought financial security and success and you will eliminate most of the educated people in this country and nearly everyone who represents only the first or second generation of his or her family to acquire a college education. (and by your arguments I suppose this eliminates the likelihood of their conversion).

What do you define as "elite"? "Financially secure"? In that case I believe you'll find mostly conservative voices amongst these "elite". If these are the elite, why will being like them make people more liberal?

The republicans are successful in part because the "elite" fund their war chest. Either liberals have not obtained the financial success of the conservative "elite" or aren't as "liberal" about supporting their causes.

H. E. said...

There's no lack of applicants for higher education in European welfare states that provide significant social safety nets and basic economic security--as well as access to higher education for all who qualify.

First, there are always financial incentives for education and training and that's fine. In the UK on the average CEOs earn 25 times what hourly workers earn. That's an incentive. The figures were comparable in the US until the 1980s. Now compensation for CEOs in the US averages 531 that of hourly workers--much higher than anywhere in the world. Incentives are fine but it looks like here the point of diminishing marginal utility has long been passed.

Secondly, even apart from financial considerations, people go to college and get technical training because they want to do jobs that are interesting and avoid boring, repetitious, regimented, closely-supervised, dead-end, mind-killing drudge work. That's why I went, and the only reason I went to college and then to grad school.

Anyone who goes to college purely for cultural enrichment or to "learn" is a fool: if you want to lean, go to the library, read books, watch PBS, poke around the web. The whole point of college is to get the credentials and skills for good jobs, jobs that aren't boring.

enlightenment said...

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