This post is inspired by a friend of ours who told a very interesting story from her growing up in a neighbouring Southern state. (And when you live in Tennessee, that doesn’t mean much, because most of the Southern states and some of the border ones too are neighbours.) She grew up in the 1980’s, and was up for one of these “Governor’s schools” for exceptional young people. In her case the guy who was in charge was gay, and she came from an Independent Baptist family. Needless to say, she was turned down for the school, and to keep his perfect record her brother was turned down too.
The gay man didn’t discriminate much longer; he died of AIDS. But after the ball anti-discrimination legislation (and before, as was the case in Miami) has been a major push of the LGBT community. It’s back in front of Congress, although the executive decision to extend the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes that effort a waste of political capital. And here in Chattanooga the city, while we grieve over the shooting of five servicemen, passed one of these ordinances.
The whole concept of anti-discrimination legislation is to enforce fairness in our society. The tricky part is twofold. First, which groups benefit from “fairness”? And second, who does the enforcing?
The answer to the first has traditionally been driven by the American obsession with identity politics: race, gender, and now sexual orientation. (The transgender movement has complicated all of this in ways that are not fully understood, but then again so have multi-racial people). The truth is that class background and status are more important, but that would force too many people to eat crow around here.
The second depends upon who is running the show. Same social class distinctions bring up the issue of income inequality, something which people talk about but don’t act upon. It’s understandable: most of the people doing the talking would have to step down in the zero-sum society and let others move up, which they’re certainly not ready to do.
The LGBT community has shown a talent for getting the rich and powerful on their side. They are the ones which ultimately arbitrate who gets what in a society where power becomes more centralised by the day. Coupled with the weakening rule of law, what we end up with is simple: a society where those who rule make the rules and change them when it suits them, irrespective of what the “people’s representatives” might have to say in the matter.
Some think that SCOTUS’ ruling on same-sex civil marriage was the turning point. It was not; it was in the tradition of Roe vs. Wade where SCOTUS dug up rights that no one else had found. It’s one thing to create law ex nihilo; it’s quite another to contradict its plain meaning when it didn’t work out the way it was supposed to. That’s what happened with King vs. Burwell, the Obamacare decision. The people who came up with the scheme knew perfectly well what they anticipated would happen: they figured that, in the absence of subsidised health care on exchanges, they would have people howling at the states to give them.
But, strange thing, that didn’t happen. The American political dynamic didn’t work the way they thought it would. There were no unwashed masses howling for health care; the masses took a bath and howled against Obamacare. So SCOTUS fixed the problem by letting the Feds go on with exchanges which the law had not provided for.
Such blatant rewriting of the law is a clear sign that we have passed beyond the rule of law; we have rule by elites. That’s a big reason the current Occupant has been busy pushing his branch left; he figures that the judiciary, of like mind and class, will go along with him at least half the time, maybe more.
Breaking down the rule of law in this country will have two effects.
The first, short-term one, is that elite opinion will drive whose discrimination gets redressed and whose does not. The results will be similar to those experienced by my friend, only on a wider scale. (And it’s a lot easier to discriminate and get away with it than you think; our bureaucratised system makes it easier to trash people than to lift them up).
The second, long-term one, is that people will realise that the rule of law is out. That revelation would change the way people interact with the government–and with each other–in ways that only people from outside the U.S. understand. The big casualty will be the moral force of the law; the state will be seen as a big protection racket for itself and its patrons and the population will respond accordingly.
And then things will really get interesting.