A Civics Lesson From Mitch McConnell And Thomas Sowell
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Although VDARE.com's main focus over the years has been about what mass immigration—both illegal and legal—is doing to the American nation and its future, the underlying concern here is The National Question: can the U.S. survive as a nation-state, the political expression of a particular people, a polity?  Clearly, today's mass immigration, strengthened by our regime of indifferent assimilation, mortally threatens our polity.  

There are threats, too, that don't involve immigration.  Native-born American citizens can lose the thread, so to speak, of core national ideas or institutions.  I assume this is at least part of what Ronald Reagan had in mind when making his famous statement: 

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it, and then hand it to them with the well-taught lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same.  And if you and I don’t do this, then you and I may well spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it once was like in America, when men were free.

[YouTube: Encroaching Control, Speech given to Phoenix Chamber of Commerce by Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1961 (PDF) (Full audio)] *

An example of losing the thread: A good friend of several decades (and of similarly advanced age, and who probably knows better, if he thinks about it) wrote to me a few days ago, "[U]nless she changes her previous positions on issues, this new Supreme Court Justice promises to be a disaster for the next 40 years on family planning, abortion, the environment, etc."

But if Associate Justice Barrett performs in her new job as she testified that she will, her "positions" on such issues are irrelevant—she'll simply be interpreting the Constitution and statutes in cases that are brought before the court, not roaming the land to make public policy according to her own preferences. 

That's a matter of basic civics, but much of the country apparently has forgotten—if they (including many judges!) ever learned it in the first place—that this is the proper role for judges.  Accordingly, the Senate's confirmation votes on Supreme Court appointments have become such cataclysmic affairs because they've devolved into de facto clashes over policy.

Just before the vote that confirmed Barrett's nomination, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell [R-KY] orated—low key, but with panache—on these ideas for about 27 minutes, providing a civics lesson that tens of millions of Americans would benefit from viewing.

Among those millions would be all 48 of the Senate Democrats, who voted unanimously against Barrett.  But as McConnell made clear, few to none of those Democrats were in the Senate chamber to hear him speak.

He usefully recounted how the confirmation process had devolved to its current state, but for me, the highlight of McConnell's speech came in the middle (~100 seconds), when he laid out the Senate Democrats' manifest goal: 

So what they're looking for here is a small panel of lawyers with elite educations to reason backwards from outcomes and enlighten all the rest of us—enlighten all the rest of us—with their moral and political judgement, whether the Constitution speaks to the issue or not.  They know best what's for us, no matter what the Constitution or the law may say.

And, you know, for the last several decades, in many cases, that's what they've gotten, one activist decision after another, giving the subjective preferences of one side the force of law.  Across a variety of social, moral, and policy matters [that] a healthy society would leave to democratic debate, the personal opinion of judges has superceded the will of the people. 

Now they call that a success, and they want more of it.  President Obama actually was refreshingly honest about this.  He said he wanted to appoint judges who had empathy.  Well, think about that for a minute, colleagues.  What if you're the litigant before the judge for whom the judge does not have empathy.  You're in tough shape.  You're in tough shape.  So you give [Obama] credit for being pretty honest about this.  That's what they're looking for.

[YouTube: McConnell Speaks Before Senate Confirms Judge Barrett, October 26, 2020]

The statement by Obama that McConnell was referencing comes from a 2007 speech that then-Senator Obama gave to a Planned Parenthood audience:

[W]e need somebody who’s got the heart—the empathy—to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old—and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges.

[Barack Obama before Planned Parenthood Action Fund, July 17, 2007]

Thomas Sowell was evidently appalled enough by Obama's shallow philosophy that he scourged it shortly before 2008's election:

Senator Obama has stated very clearly what kinds of Supreme Court justices he wants-- those with "the empathy to understand what it's like to be poor, or African-American, or gay, or disabled, or old."

Like so many things that Obama says, it may sound nice if you don't stop and think-- and chilling if you do stop and think. Do we really want judges who decide cases based on who you are, rather than on the facts and the law?

If the case involves a white man versus a black woman, should the judge decide that case differently than if both litigants are of the same race or sex?

The kind of criteria that Barack Obama promotes could have gotten three young men at Duke University sent to prison for a crime that neither they nor anybody else committed.

Didn't we spend decades in America, and centuries in Western civilization, trying to get away from the idea that who you are determines what your legal rights are?

[Obama and the Law, Townhall.com, October 28, 2008]

Sowell was probably still ruminating on that perverse shallowness half a year later, when he wrote:

The very idea that a judge's "life experiences" should influence judicial decisions is as absurd as it is dangerous.

It is dangerous because citizens are supposed to obey the law, which means they must know what the law is in advance -- and nobody can know in advance what the "life experiences" of whatever judge they might appear before will happen to be.

["Out of Context", Townhall.com, June 2, 2009]

When "our greatest contemporary philosopher" focuses on basics, his resulting conclusions tend to be couched in memorable terms.


*Thanks to VDARE.com's miracle-working editor James Fulford for unearthing the actual Reagan quote. -- PN





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