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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Justice Sunday II–Fundamentally Dishonest

What really jumps out at you upon watching or reading about the Justice Sunday II sermon-o-ganza in Nashville yesterday is the contrast between the carefully process-oriented framing of the event–all about the separation of power, and checks and balances, and maintaining legislative prerogatives, and so on, bark bark, woof woof–and the underlying extremism of what the speakers actually were talking about.Sure, one theme of the event was the hoary pretense that somehow people of faith (or more accurately, of conservative faiths) are being persecuted for speaking their minds on political issues, which is pretty hilarious given the presence of the all-powerful Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, and the event’s object of promoting the judicial appointees of the President of the United States in the Senate controlled by that president’s party. There are a few of us who think the religious leaders participating in Justice Sunday II are dangerously shirking their spiritual duties by committing their flocks to a seamy alliance with Mammon through today’s Republican Party, but I don’t know anybody who denies their First Amendment right to sell their religious birthright for a mess of political pottage.But aside from all the paranoiac (and very un-Christ-like) whining, the big underlying message from Nashville was that reshaping the Supreme Court is necessary to stop the alleged baby-killing, sodomizing, and paganizing that characterizes contemporary America. And there is zero, zero doubt that each and every one of the speakers at Justice Sunday II would completely reverse themselves on every issue related to the Constitution, activist judges, and all the other stuff they blathered about, if the shoe was on the other foot and the judiciary was promoting their own ideology.Suppose, as a thought experiment, that a future Supreme Court embraced the implicit interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause embedded in the Human Life Amendment (still supported in the last Republican platform): that unborn children are endowed with all the rights and privileges of citizenship. Was there a single speaker in Nashville who would not hail such a decision as vindication of a Higher Law that binds all people and all times? I think not.In all their talk about legislative and democratic prereogatives, and the horrific arrogance of unelected judges, the Justice Sunday crowd is painfully reminiscent of the southern segregations who relied for many decades on Supreme Court decisions like Plessy v. Ferguson (the infamous “separate but equal” validation of Jim Crow), and then suddenly re-discovered a populist hostility to the federal judiciary the moment the constitutional winds started blowing in a different direction.It’s true that the Left as well as the Right has flip-flopped on this subject in the course of American history; reducing the power of the judiciary was a staple of the People’s Party and of the Progressive Movement back when judges interpreted the Constitution as prohibiting any and all legislation regulating private property rights.I don’t accuse today’s Cultural Right of a unique political heresy, but I do accuse them of a great and notable streak of dishonesty. They don’t give a damn about any of the constitutional and procedural issues they talked about in Nashville; they care about a particular policy outcome. They want to criminalize abortion, criminalize homosexual behavior, and sanction public displays of particular religious traditions. They will pursue those policies through any means available, and they ought to be pushed to the wall to admit it.

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