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Continued: When liberals stop being wimps

  • Article by: E.J. DIONNE JR. , Washington Post
  • Last update: April 8, 2012 - 7:20 PM

In fact, Obama's statements are moderate compared with those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who unsuccessfully sought to add members to the court after it had voided one New Deal law after another.

The Constitution, Roosevelt insisted, is "a layman's document, not a lawyer's contract." Its ambiguities had created "an unending struggle between those who would preserve this original broad concept of the Constitution" and those who "cry ‘unconstitutional' at every effort to better the condition of our people."

The United States, FDR insisted, could not afford "to sacrifice each generation in turn while the law catches up with life." He spoke with a sense of urgency in the midst of the Great Depression.

"The millions who are in want," he said, "will not stand by silently forever while the things to satisfy their needs are within easy reach."

FDR lost the court-packing fight but won the larger battle over the right of the democratic branches of government to legislate on behalf of the common good.

Progressives would be wildly irresponsible if they sat by quietly while a conservative Supreme Court majority undid 80 years of jurisprudence.

Roosevelt wasn't a wimp, and Obama has decided that he won't be one, either. Conservatives are unhappy because they prefer passive, intimidated liberals to the fighting kind.

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