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The Credibility High Ground

April 13, 2010

Drum sees Jonah’s column today on the President’s standards for Supreme Court justices as another dishonest languishing for a justice who just calls balls and strikes.  He also bemoans the way conservatives have adopted judicial impartiality as part of the conservative core value even though they are only invested in it when it works for the Right:

It’s a bald enough strategy that you really wouldn’t think it had much chance of working outside the true believer base. After all, trying to divine the original intent of the founders is at least as difficult and as fraught with problems of interpretation as any other judicial philosophy. More so, I’d say, since the historical record is patchy and difficult, and trying to apply 18th century values to 21st century society is as thorny a problem as you could imagine. And yet, work it has. They’ve somehow convinced the chattering classes that judicial impartiality is a conservative value, the same way that they hijacked patriotism several decades ago and associated it with unswerving support for big military budgets and foreign wars.

But you know what? Sometimes impartial justice really is on the side of the little guy. At least half the time, you’d think. In fact, that’s as good a yardstick as any: I’d be fine with a judge who, over the years, ruled against corporate interests half the time. Can conservatives say the same?

Well, that’s definitely more appropriately discussed on a case-by-case basis, but if you want to know the truth, yes.  The reason conservatives can’t convince anybody that they aren’t hypocrites when it comes to judicial activism (besides the fact that liberals will just not accept that the opposition party is pro-good-government) is that when opportunities arise to actually demonstrate what’s supposed to be a conservative value, they botch it.  Instead of applauding decisions like Citizens United, someone needs to ask liberals this question: what the hell do I, as a conservative, care about “corporate interests”?  I don’t work for Goldman-Sachs, and I’m pretty sure the SEIU exhibits just as much, if not more, influence on American life than does the NRA.  It’s unclear to me that the Supreme Court’s defending of whatever “corporate interests” are is a boon to conservatives and a bane to liberals.

I’d put a lot on black that a lot of times impartial justice is indeed on the side of the little guy (Frank Ricci comes to mind).  Conservatives have to be able to convince people that that’s fine with us.  If they can quit botching these opportunities, then they’ll hold the high ground the next time the President nominates an activist to the Supreme Court that they feeling like Borking.  As it is, after John Paul Stevens retires, conservatives won’t really have much to say in the way of railing against activism since they essentially condoned the method (that’s the means, not the end) by which campaign finance reform was struck down.

Something to think about.

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