It is universally recognized that one of the subliminal factors that will play a significant role in the Presidential election will be the great cultural divide that provided the primary separation between the “red” and “blue” states of the election of 2000. I say subliminal, because neither candidate to date appears to have assigned high visibility to the importance of the issues that feed into this divide—the usual suspects, of course, being abortion, homosexual marriage, the role of religion in public life, bioethics, etc. But the most critical aspect of these issues, aside from the substance of each, which is important, is the means by which American society resolves them. Quite simply, I believe that the future of the republic rests on the answer to the question of whether or not the legislative and executive branches will cease to abdicate their responsibilities and rescue the democratic process from the willful disregard of the Constitution by the judiciary.Many of the Supreme Court decisions of the 1950’s and 1960’s, such as those on civil rights, were considered fairly radical at the time, but were basically restorations of rights. After all, Martin Luther King’s revolution was about living up to our principles, not inventing new ones. But the courts have long since gone past the protection and restoration of rights and have extended their power down to the minutiae of public policy, even to the point of referring to judicial precedents from other countries in Supreme Court decisions! This has enormous implications for self-governance, and should be a major factor in this election, however radioactive the underlying issues may be. In fact, George Bush should make it one—it would be a big winner for him. As Michael Novak has noted, “It is a constant struggle to maintain free societies in any of their three parts, economic, political, or cultural. Of these three, the cultural struggle, long neglected, is the one on whose outcome the fate of free societies in the 21st century will depend. We will have to learn, once again, how to think about morals, and how to argue about them publicly….”. No better time than in an election year.
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