Subjects, Not Citizens

RC2 spent half the day in traffic today --hence, more talk radio than usual. Tonight our local host Chris Core opened his show with an hour on Jesse Helm's new book, in which he makes the argument that Brown v. Board of Education actually hindered the process of integration which was already underway. By foisting busing on people, he says (trusting Core's characterization here), the courts caused resentments and acrimony that would not have existed had the confluence of moral and market forces been allowed to shape politics in a more organic fashion. ""We will never know how integration might have been achieved in neighborhoods across our land, because the opportunity was snatched away by outside agitators who had their own agendas to advance."
Core's audience is mixed, but tilts conservative (he follow Sean Hannity). Nonetheless you would think for all the world in listening to them (they almost universally derided Helms) that the Supreme Court is the only institution in the US. Most callers would begin with an especially hideous example of racism they'd witnessed or read about back in Jim Crowe days and conclude, "Nothing was going to change that attitude except a change in law."
Ahem. There are no citizens of good will, churches, clubs, neighborhood associations, town halls, local assemblies, state legislatures, members of Congress?
In other words, for many in Core's audience, there really isn't any principled Conservatism involved in their opposition to judicial activism now. It's just they want the Supremes to intervene when they want them to and to refrain when they don't. "Give us busing but don't give us gay marriage." The problem is, there is no principled way to have only one of those in the long run.
RC2 admits this a topic w/o easy answers; she wasn't drawn to Helms' thesis at first. It is hard to imagine racism being overcome naturally, no matter how much one is opposed to judicial activism, and no matter what a disaster one thinks Brown has been for the country. But the more she listened to people expressing her instinctive view, the more she realized the flaw in her own thinking --forgetting about the normal steps of a political process. Of course the Supremes messed it up. An arbitrary solution from on high can never find as satisfactory a result as one that people working together come to on their own --and convince others of. (I don't say easily or quickly.) And we'll never know how much lingering mistrust and hatred need not have existed had social change not come from on high (making a social experiment of people's kids), but after debate and moral suasion and the winning of a majority of citizens' hearts.
Let's not forget it was the Supreme Court that cemented Jim Crowe laws in the first place, in Plessy v. Ferguson. Activist judges take thorny problems and make them worse. Then they try to solve them and make an even bigger mess. We in the Church have a one-word solution for judicial temptation to activism: subsidiarity.
(P.S. Awkward moment department. Around Christmas RC2 was at an Open House at a neighbor's. Observing one of the women from the parish folk group arrive early, help set everything up and help w/ serving and cleaning, I happened to comment to my hosts, "X is a kind person, isn't she?" Hosts agreed, then said "X" comes from a proud lineage of helping people. "Her father was the lawyer who drafted the Brown decision." RC2 tried to look impressed rather than horrified. )