Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Dr. Pat and ROE (and Dr. Paul)

Deneen is right in reminding us of the limits of what really will be accomplished simply by overturning ROE. But it’s also true--very true--that the our souls are shaped, in part, by the law. And so it is, quite literally, demoralizing for people to be led to believe they have a right they don’t really have. ROE really was an egregious act of judicial imperialism that replaced democratic moral deliberation with that of the experts. No true populist could think its overturning would be trivial or affirm a party that has regarded the Court as its legislative arm. William Jennings Bryan would have been mad as hell about ROE.
And no one who has any respect for the true understanding of our equality and liberty under the Constitution could be indifferent to the way ROE has distorted our understanding of both constitutionalism and the purposes of political life. Abraham Lincoln would have been mad as hell about ROE. Dr. Pat is right enough about the demoralizing impact of nominating Giuliani, who has said that affirming the precedent of ROE might be compatible with judicial restraint properly understood.

Discussions - 5 Comments

I don't find the reference to Dr. Paul.

Dr. Paul Seaton...

I don't disagree with anything Peter says here. I agree that we are right to be outraged about Roe, and my thoughts were written with the presumption that we are and should rightly be outraged. However, I am concerned that so much of the energy of conservatives has been directed at overturning Roe that many have lost sight that this is really the easiest part of the battle, and that a far more difficult set of battles need to be fought in the areas of culture and economics. These battles can be engaged in advance of any eventual judicial decisions, but my suspicion is that very few conservatives are actually inclined to seek to change more fundamental features of the liberal polity. In his magisterial book "A World Beyond Politics" Pierre Manent argues that modern universalist democracy unfolds under the power of three "systems": economics ("commerce,"); right (or universalist law); and morality ("humanitarianism") (p. 203). Modern conservatives not only ignore the first, they are complicit in its libertarian dynamic, and they assume that the third can be subsumed in the second. I want to argue that conservatives must attend to all three, and without doing so, implicitly permit major parts of this dynamic to undermine their efforts in another sphere. So, I agree with Peter - but it should also be remembered that proper jurisprudence must be part of a larger set of concerns and efforts.

Thanks to Pat. I only thought he should be a little more outraged. The rest of his note here is appropriately Tocquevillian or even Brownsonian.

Just a few thoughts (after reading Dr. Pat's comment here and his longer post over at (the always intriguing) "What I Saw in America" (with the equally arresting subtitle, in which our author confesses to a double-life). 1) Dr. Pat's an artful rhetor, appealing to Pierre Manent -- a Frenchman! -- against "many 'conservatives'" or, perhaps, "conservatives", or perhaps conservatives-constantly duped-by Republican politicans; in this connection I duly acknowledge that it is always good to bring Manent into a discussion (I would say the same thing about Aristotle); does Dr. Pat want to go further with Manent and discuss what "the political" is, and whether it is exhausted or defined by the polis or the township? as well as Manent's argument concerning the indispensable role of "the nation" in modern democratic man's poltical existence? 2) I do not recognize my view of (the history and truth about) constitutional jurisprudence in Dr. Pat's "implicit in these views" is some sort of conception of a pristine era or constitutional Garden of Eden. To put one of my (constitutional) cards on the table: I think that the New Deal Court wrecked great damage on our constitutional order starting with (many of) its 1930s decisions. Liberal Progressives did great harm to our constitutionalism long before 1965. Nor am I so simplistic as to speak about "direct result" in connection with political, social, and cultural phenomena. I'm a "whole with parts," complex streams of causality, kind-of-guy.
3) One last point, I'd be interested in hearing what Dr. Pat has to say about the many, many conservatives (some even Republicans! some even Democrats!) who are very concerned and active about "culture": a good number, for example, speak about and work mightily to transform a so-called "culture of death", part of which is the abortion-on-demand regime mandated by the Supreme Court.
More, perhaps, later, but I have to prepare Augustine for class. Now there's a man with a sense of human possibilities and limits!

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