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Posts Tagged ‘federal judiciary’

Responding here to a bunch of comments posted during recent months, since I don’t like burying and scattering the discussion:

Elites versus the crowd. Working backward and starting with lacithedog’s comment on my “New Deal 2.0″ post. Laciethedog is reading Declaration and comments further on the “New Deal” post here. I appreciate the interest and support. And I have a concern about the idea that the founding fathers “incited the masses” and then found “the mob” hard to control. In both Declaration and that “New Deal” post, I do discuss tensions — indeed, outright enmity, at times — between the adherents of populist democracy and the adherents of republican liberty who banded together to defeat reconciliation with England in 1776. But I think I also show that I see the alliance as a matter of mutual manipulation, with ordinary people possessing plenty of initiative, intelligence, and what the historians call “agency,” and not of a mindless mob being incited and then imperfectly controlled by elites. Not sure if laciethedog is thinking of it quite that way, but the terminology gives me pause.

War on Christmas. Laciethedog also comments on my “war on Christmas” post. Point taken. Can’t agree that anything would have made either Adams literally a Tory — but even without a time machine, John Adams’s “Good God!” on reading the radically democratic PA Constitution of 1776 (and his predicting that PA would soon want George III back), and Samuel’s calling for the death penalty for the so-called Shays rebels, made many at the time think the Adamses and others had reverted to a kind of Tory authoritarianism. Neither Samuel’s nor John’s disgust with the populism they’d collaborated with in 1776 represents a reversion, however — which is really the well-taken point of laciethedog’s comment. While they differed in influences, emphases, and personal styles, both Adamses remained pretty consistent in their elite Whig republicanism throughout the period. Whigs were not democrats.

Socialist Pilgrims. Michael Pichowsky makes a thought-provoking comment regarding my post on the “Socialist Pilgrim” flap. But even given all of Pichowsky’s nuanced understanding of the Calvinist-socialist problem, I’m still unconvinced that it’s fair to see the very specific Plymouth experience as revealing some big truth about the virtues of free markets versus a centrally planned economy. Bradford does seem to have been reading the lesson pretty much that way, though.

Inalienable rights and God. My Constitution posts are leading me toward an article that would qualify as something other than a post, more like what I call a “work” in this post — whether I end up publishing it here, on another blog, or in a magazine. Interesting comments in this regard included Martin’s, of What Would the Founders Think?. Martin raises the issue of where the in- or un-alienable rights come from and says that Glenn Beck gets it right: from God. Liberal readers may be surprised to hear me say that, in this context, I agree: (more…)

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Obama’s Press Secretary: Bill?

Me: The other day the President told reporters that the courts of the 1960’s had perhaps been overly activist. Now we’re getting reports that the administration is exploring possible qualifications of the Miranda rule, in cases of people suspected of terrorism. Would it be fair to conclude that the Miranda rule is a good example of an area where the President feels the 1960’s courts were overly activist?

OPS: Well, the President has been very clear on –

Me: I mean it’s OK with me if he does think that. I JUST REALLY WANT TO KNOW WHAT HE THINKS!

OPS: That’s enough, Bill. Yes, Brian?

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Yesterday I wrote about my perplexity over Obama’s comments on the history of federal judicial decisions. This morning’s New York Times – though not exactly playing the story up — unpacks some of the issues involved. Writing fast, I mentioned only hot-button items like abortion rights and affirmative action as products of those liberal courts; the Times zeroes in on matters at least as critical, from indigent suspects’ right to free lawyers, to Miranda, to fairer election districting, etc.

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Talking to reporters on Air Force One yesterday, President Obama pointed out, no doubt rightly, that conservative federal judges have been engaging in their own brand of activism. I heard the soundbite on “Morning Edition,” and here it is in print, from CBS:

In the ’60s and ’70s, the feeling was, is that liberals were guilty of that kind of approach [i.e., imposing judicial solutions to problems more properly addressed by legislatures]. What you’re now seeing, I think, is a conservative jurisprudence that oftentimes makes the same error.

Once again I’m clueless about what the President may really think about a historical subject that he has made a point of bringing up. (more…)

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