The Ricci reactions have made more evident that liberals are peeved that anybody takes seriously all that language in the civil rights laws about equal protection. In the liberal mind, the specific wording of the laws was just a sham to get them approved. The laws are really simply about "Who? Whom?" Thus, the idea of civil rights laws being used by the Supreme Court to protect the civil rights of white guys like Frank Ricci is an affront against all that is holy (i.e., civil rights laws).
Consider this entry, From Washingto to New Haven, the Rules They Are A-Changin', on the Washington Post's XX blog by Nicole Allan, the Slate intern/Yalie who coauthored with Emily Bazelon that long article in Slate entitled The Ladder.
The plaintiffs in the hotly contested affirmative action case Ricci v. DeStefano stood out among the crowd outside New Haven City Hall today. They wore dress blues and wide smiles or poker-faces that occasionally cracked into grins. They were, but for one, white, and they were celebrating their win in a 5-4 decision handed down by a sharply divided Supreme Court.
Mingling on the sidewalk before the conference, plaintiff Frank Ricci posed for photos with his family. Ben Vargas, the one Hispanic amongst the 18 plaintiffs, grinned beneath his sunglasses and crisp peaked cap. Attorney Karen Torre, surrounded by her clients and jokingly donning one of their caps, delivered a statement in boldly Obama-esque fashion: "We had the audacity of hope-that some court at some point would enforce the letter and spirit of the civil rights laws, accord to firefighters the recognition and respect that they deserve, and reject attempts to lower professional standards of competence for the sake of identity politics."
It took some audacity indeed to invoke Obama in support of a lawsuit that called into question the country's most significant civil rights statutes. ...
I kept thinking about the black firefighters I’ve been talking to over the past few weeks, none of whom I saw at the press conference. After decades and decades of lawsuits founded upon civil rights statutes, they have started to get ahead. Blacks and Hispanics, who make up about 60 percent of New Haven’s population, are now more or less proportionally represented within the rank and file of the city’s fire department. But their efforts to penetrate the upper management ranks have been less fruitful. Currently, only one of the city’s 21 fire captains is African-American. The anti-discrimination laws that once won them spots in New Haven’s firehouses are now the laws that have planted the smiles on Frank Ricci’s and Ben Vargas’ faces. There go the rules, changing again.
As Strobe Talbott wrote in Time in 1982:
Lenin, with his knack for hortatory pungency, reduced the past and future alike to two pronouns and a question mark: "Who -- whom?" No verb was necessary. It meant who would prevail over whom? And the question was largely rhetorical, implying that the answer was never in doubt. Lenin and those who followed him would prevail over "them," whoever they were.
The funny thing is how modern American liberals consider their Who? Whom? mindset not cynical, but sacred.