Jim Meehan, NewsArt
Liberalism is right, conservatism is wrong
- Article by: DAVID M. PERLMAN
- July 3, 2012 - 1:42 PM
In "Based on recent rulings, it's the court's liberal wing that's rigid" (June 29), D.J. Tice observed that the liberal members of the U.S. Supreme Court constitute a more lockstep group than the conservatives do.
I think he's right -- but Tice presented this as a criticism of the liberals.
In fact, it's the final refuge for what is good about America. I have a theory about this; it's going to sound a bit arrogant. The United States truly is a nation under God. Its existence is a kind of miracle -- several miracles, in fact.
The first was that Washington's army would have been destroyed by the British in New York but for a freak thunderstorm that rolled in out of nowhere. The second was that our Constitution was crafted by a group of intelligent and insightful political philosophers. The third was that, in their wisdom, the founders made the term of a Supreme Court justice for life.
Here's the arrogant part: Liberalism is correct and conservatism is wrong.
It's not so clear as that, though. Mathematics distinguishes clearly between correct and incorrect. Two plus two is four -- not three or five, regardless of what anybody thinks. Science is almost as clear. The Earth is not at the center of the universe, even though at one time it was dangerous or even lethal to say so. Galileo would attest to that.
Global climate change is another case in point. I bring that up here only to point out that we still have issues where the truth (whatever that is) comes down in the end to a question of science, yet the debate is largely political.
The law, unlike mathematics or science, attempts to be based on logic, but it is strongly influenced by interpretation. What, for example, is a "reasonable man"? Reasonable men can disagree. The purpose of the legal minds who sit on the Supreme Court is not so much to apply logic as it is to interpret the Constitution.
And now we come to rigid blocs and the miracle that is the Supreme Court. I can well imagine the behind-the-scenes conversations that go on among the nine justices. I envision congeniality and also heated debate, and I have come to believe that the liberals tend to sway the conservatives far more than the other way around.
Justice David Souter comes to mind right away. Even Justice Sandra Day O'Connor moved to the left in the end. I think the reason is that they are all intelligent people, and intelligent people tend toward liberalism.
Conservatives decry the liberal bias in the universities. It is true that most college professors are liberals, but I don't think it has anything to do with bias. It is because college professors are intelligent people, and intelligent people tend to be liberal.
I have had many conversations with colleagues about why so many people vote against their own best interests, and the only conclusion that is ever reached is that those people are swayed by emotional arguments, not by intelligent thought.
So, in the end, despite Citizens United, and despite Republicans' putting extreme conservatives on the Supreme Court, the constitution of the court itself (pun intended) has a tendency to move to the left.
David M. Perlman, of New Hope, is a retired mathematics professor.
© 2013 Star Tribune