March 20, 2004

Papering over the issues

William Rubenstein makes a much-needed point in the Times today:

Politicians generally like a constitutional discussion because it allows them a way to avoid controversial topics by reframing them in terms of the two organizing principles of our system of government: separation of powers and federalism.
Rubenstein's point is that, publicly, there's not much debate about whether gay marriage is right or wrong, or whether gay marriage should be part of a 'good' society. Instead, we get cavorting speeches about "states' rights" and "judicial activism." Out with Plato, in with Hamilton, is it now? The same goes for the debate over Roy Moore's Ten Commandments. Everything then hinged on the "accurate" interpretation of the establishment clause.

Maybe this is the real problem with judicial supremacy: our public debates have become too legalistic, and not philosophical enough. Have we stretched our faith in the Founding Fathers a tad too far?

This short answer is: it's complicated, and hefty writers have grumbled over these issues for decades, if not centuries. The innocuous answer: I'll have to think about it some more.
-- Brad Plumer 1:21 PM || ||