For some years I’ve been cudgeling my brain and writing about the two tiers of what Americans call conservatism. There are the rank and file who are motivated by hostility to government, culture war crap like abortion and gay rights and race, and religious dominionism. But what about the other tier, the William Barrs and so many others who are highly educated, sophisticated, experienced and yet support a buffoon like Donald Trump? Their daughters get abortions, their church membership is perfunctory, their own sex lives kept secret with good reason. The only thing some are honest about is military service and adherence to some church doctrine; otherwise they do not qualify as Louie Gohmert conservatives. So what motivates them?
I have suspected that it is some deep level interpretation of the Constitution. I know that they harp on the courts. Could that be it, that they want to courts to rule in their favor? But what is their favor? They don’t really care about abortion other than to urge anti-abortion measures to get the votes of the social conservatives. They pass massive budge increases for the military because they are heavily invested in defense industries. They favor the energy companies because they bankroll campaigns and the GOP. They may share a suspicion of Black people with the rank and file but they readily hire Blacks on their staff, socialize with them, promote conservative Blacks. So what is it?
Today on A.M. Joy, the stand-in host Jonathan Capehart asked his panel what underlies all this. Elie’s answer went home like a harpoon – hostility to voting rights! Unlike the rank and file whose hostility toward the government and the media goes back to the Civil Rights Movement and how the media covered and uncovered their evil injustices and their backward thinking, holding them up to ridicule, not to mention the Federal government putting Black children in “their” schools at bayonet point, the hostility of the upper tier, so to speak, seems to be extremely ideological. Their hostility is genteel, like the slave holder who sent his slaves out for punishment rather than torture them himself. They show little respect for the struggles of the hoi polloi nor for their achievements; after all, it is the job of the hoi polloi to fight wars, labor to enrich the country, and to be fruitful and multiply, it is not to make decisions.
The decision makers aka deciders are people of accomplishment, sophistication, knowledge, and connections. Money helps but is not the chief criterion. When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution and other founding documents (The Declaration of Independence, The Federalist Papers, communications of Congress, etc.), they did so in the context of their times so that social class and economic subordination loomed over the proceedings, matters like women, slaves, religion, and other factors where the thinking of the times was very different from our own. However, the genius of the Constitution and other writings was the embedding of the seeds of freedom. The American understanding of freedom is that we get to make decisions for ourselves (Chinese civilization might be put in opposition to this understanding of freedom). At the time of the Founding, many “selves” did not have that freedom. While today we regard as regardless some suggestions that children be given such freedom, we must not practice presentism but should recognize that at the Founding women, slaves, unpropertied men were not considered capable of such freedom. Only when they grabbed that freedom for themselves – many heroic examples of that – did the dominion class cede power and that was, for the most part, the power of the vote.
Here is an excerpt from my earlier post titled We the Who?
“Once basic rights are secured economic power comes. First you get the freedom of movement and residence to secure jobs and property; then you get the vote so politicians have to take you seriously; then you make money so everybody takes you seriously. That is how you become people …….. In the final analysis the definition of people comes down not to a perception or point of view but to self-assertion. To Jefferson a good many of us would not be people in the sense of We the People, but we have not let that get in our way. No one says, “Well, Jefferson did not mean you.”
So when Elie Mystal announced firmly that what binds judicial conservatives together, what links this network of conservative thinkers and theorizers like we see in The Federalist Society, is the distaste for so many in the hoi-polloi having the vote. Thank you, Mr. Mystal.
I just came across an example of how this judicial hostility can work magic on our whole society. “Chief Justice John Roberts in 2007, …. states that segregation as it exists today “is a product not of state action but of private choices, it does not have constitutional implications.” That is to say, the state has no role in intervening in “private choices” which violate the Constitutional rights of American citizens. Personally, I would say these true conservatives (as opposed to yahoos like Louie Gohmert) do not regard anyone not in the image of the FFs as a citizen they would be required to recognize as such. They are only biding their time until they can roll back civil rights legislation.