Supreme Court, John Birch Society, Warren Court discussed on WNYC Programming
Media and the Transformation of American Politics. Conservatives first toyed with a Republican, not a democracy slogan. In the late 19 thirties. The conservatives who were involved with the America First Committee, which was this committee founded in order to prevent the US from getting involved in World War two were somewhat affronted by Franklin Roosevelt, saying that the U. S needed to wage this war to defend democracy and the way that they pushed back against that appeal was to say, Well, wait a second. We're a republic, not a democracy. And so that's the first time you start to hear this as a kind of political slogan to fight back against rhetoric about American democracy. Then again in the early sixties, not only in the heart of the Cold War, but at a time when the Supreme Court was Codifying the bill of rights into court decisions toward a more liberal democracy. The John Birch Society's founder, Robert Welch, Declared. This is a republic, not a democracy. Let's keep it that way. What was he up to? Robert Welch was really opposed Teo the Liberal Justice Earl Warren's Supreme Court, in large part because the Supreme Court had ruled in 1950 for that schools could not be segregated. And then in the 19 sixties. What happens is the Warren Court begins to press for this idea of one person, one vote. And this was part of the same push that was going on in U. S Society for black voting rights and an opposition to both the principle of one person. One vote and to the protection of black voting rights was really driving the John Birch Society to oppose the expansion of voting rights, the sort of leveling of voting rights. And that was all contained in this slogan of a republic, not a democracy. The John Birchers supposed some of the more famous decisions of the Warren Court. You mentioned Brown versus Board of education. But there was also Reynolds V. Simms about the very question of one person. One vote. What were the details of that decision, and what effect did it have on the nature of American democracy? So you had state legislatures where districts were determined by geography by things like counties, which led to a more Senate like form of representation, where very small population counties had the same political power is very large population counties and the Supreme Court intervened and said, You know what? That's not fair That's not representative and ordered that state legislatures Decide their districting on the basis of population. It was a really important moment of putting some behind this idea of one person, one vote. I can remember when the John Birch Society was regarded as a kind of lunatic fringe of reactionary thought, now its positions or more or less mainstream conservatism. What was its solution at the time for an activist court. So their first solution was to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren. That was the big rally and cry on the right in the early 19 sixties. But then it became part of a broader conservative project to get more conservative justices on the Supreme Court. Now that was clearly a much longer term project, But that's kind of where you see the seeds of Ah new focus on the Supreme Court as something that could be a protector of conservative political power and ideas. Now the debate you are talking about. It seems to happen a time when conservatism finds itself on the wrong side of the political consensus in the country. So what happened in the early eighties made Reaganism in which the conservatives very much represented the consensus of American wishes and thought. Conservatives could look around during the 19 eighties and say no, no, wait a second. It actually turns out that direct democracy and majoritarian elections that's working out pretty well for us. So there is this moment during the 19 eighties at the height of the Cold War, when Reagan is talking about democracy, and when conservatives seem to be winning these landslide elections, with the majority of the population behind them. That democracy has a bit of a moment in conservative circles. The U. S. Senate and the presidency are representatives of a political minority beneficiaries of the structurally disproportionate electoral representation. As a percentage of the population. Is Lee agitating for nothing Mohr than the perverse status quo. I think that there is a real fear among conservatives that even the kind of minority Arian benefits that are already built into the system through the Electoral college through the Senate are at risk. Nicole. Thank you very much. Thanks so much for having me. Nicole Hammer is a research scholar at Columbia University and author of Messengers of the Right Conservative Media and the Transformation of American politics. Matthew.