Friday, June 17, 2005

Culture Wars

Comment, 6/17/2005 on Michael Berube's blog

The basic idea is simple: it’s not a democracy unless the “outs” have a reasonable hope of someday becoming the “ins.... Since gaining office, [Republicans] have shown an equal willingness to trash democracy in order to make their own power more effective. They are utterly driven by content-and either have no understanding of or utter contempt for form. Legal and procedural niceties are for sissies seems to sum up their basic, thuggish, approach to governing.

This is a thought-provoking piece, and I agree on the theory-but it’s a case where what you see depends on where you sit. I hope you will agree that most of the content-driven policy-making has been on culture-war issues; you have to look at what has happened from the conservative side.

On most of the culture-war issues of the last 55 years, the “outs” have had no reasonable chance of becoming the “ins”-and the clearer that became, the less willing cultural conservatives have been to play along with “legal and procedural norms” that seem designed to lock them out.

It started with Brown, which broke the Solid South. Remember, Brown was not a democratic decision, nor did it follow any procedural niceties; it ignored 70 years of precedent, and the laws of the majority of the country, and ended up being enforced by using Federal troops to do domestic police work. It was a liberal (freedom-based) decision, but it wasn’t democratic, and it couldn’t be overturned democratically.

Then came Murray v. Curlett / Abington Township v. Schempp-the school prayer cases. Again, the decision went against long-established precedent and the practices of much (probably most) of the country. And again, there was no way that it could be changed by the normal Democratic process.

Ditto for Roe v Wade; ditto for Lawrence; and given the Loving precedent, court-mandated recognition of same-sex marriage could easily follow the same path.

Becoming your enemy is always a risk; I think that the cultural conservatives have fallen into it, but-it is easy to see why “legal and procedural niceties” are being ignored, when you realize that cultural conservatives have been losing battles where the other side wasn’t constrained by those niceties, and they were, for 50 years.