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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Brown’s Birth, and Death

Justice Earl Warren did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Brown v. Board decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it.

When Warren wrote the Brown decision, it took the segregation issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that’s always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn’t have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate.

Instead, Warren and his colleagues invented a right to integration, overturning more than a half-century of established precedent, and imposed a solution more extreme than the policies of just about any other comparable nation.

Southern voters became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists.

The fact is, the entire country is trapped.  Earl Warren and his colleagues suppressed that democratic “integration” debate the nation needs to have. The poisons have been building ever since. You can complain about the incivility of politics, but you can’t stop the escalation of conflict in the middle. You have to kill it at the root. Unless Brown v. Board is overturned, politics will never get better.

Hey, can I have David Brooks’ op-ed slot when he goes on vacation?

UPDATE:  Please please give me Brooks’ column for a couple of weeks!  I can churn this stuff out with machinelike efficiency!  Watch:

Justice Earl Warren did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Loving v. Virginia decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it.

When Warren wrote the Loving decision, it took the miscegenation issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that’s always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn’t have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate.

Instead, Warren and his colleagues invented a right to miscegenation that existed nowhere in the Constitution, and imposed a solution more extreme than the policies of just about any other comparable nation.

Southern voters became understandably alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists.

The fact is, the entire country is trapped.  Earl Warren and his colleagues suppressed that democratic miscegenation debate the nation needs to have. The poisons have been building ever since. You can complain about the incivility of politics, but you can’t stop the escalation of conflict in the middle. You have to kill it at the root. Unless Loving v. Virginia is overturned, politics will never get better. 

Posted by Michael on 04/21 at 08:04 AM
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