With All Due Respect, He Should Have Picked a Protestant

I’m thinking more and more that the president should have nominated a Protestant to the court. Think about it: Liberals have been arguing for decades in favor of diversity as a fundamental value in schooling, hiring and choosing governing/decision-making bodies. How can a Democratic president take the step that renders the Supreme Court devoid of a single member of America’s majority? Even from a purely political point of view, how can a Democrat facing a tough midterm election send the message (however unintended) to the country’s majority demographic group, which happens to be the demographic that’s most wary of Democrats, that they’re not valued?

There are a variety of reasons why liberals have insisted on diversity as an essential factor in these matters. For one, to ensure that all groups’ values and interests are represented at the table. For another, to give all segments of society an equal sense of ownership. Then there’s the simple matter of guaranteeing equal opportunity and opening doors that were previously closed. No, a black or a woman or a Hispanic on the high court doesn’t do much to change the lives of ordinary people, but it makes a big difference in their sense of themselves and how they understand their place in society.

Conservatives have complained since the 1960s that deliberately advancing minorities will effectively reduce opportunities for members of the majority. Liberals dismiss this as a dodge to defend the status quo. The purpose of diversity is to bring the excluded up to a level of equality, not to elevate one group above another. Defending majority rights has always smacked of David Duke and the White Citizens’ Councils: preserving privilege. Besides, the idea that the majority could ever become excluded seemed impossible.

Well, here we are. No Protestants on the Supreme Court. A group that feels itself, with some justice, to be the core, founding majority of America, and has been feeling itself under siege, now looks at the highest court in the land and doesn’t see itself there.

Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, co-president of CLAL, argues in a piece on Huffington Post that religion shouldn’t be a factor in choosing Supreme Court justices, but this case is different — if for no other reason, then because diversity and inclusion are the Democrats’ own principles, and there’s something to be said for consistency in adhering to core principles.

Pat Buchanan, in a blog post at The American Conservative, does a wicked number on the Democrats’ record in choosing justices. But the numbers are surprising:

Hold on. Pat’s just getting wound up.

Beyond diversity in identity and background, there’s another, more fundamental reason why religion matters in this case. Joel Osler, who teaches law at the Baptist-sponsored Baylor University and heads the Association of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, reminds us in a blog post on the Dallas Morning News website that religion plays a major role in shaping Americans’ values. And while Osler doesn’t point this out, there is such a thing as a Protestant understanding of the world, broadly speaking, that isn’t the same as a Catholic understanding. Here’s Osler:

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

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With All Due Respect, He Should Have Picked a Protestant

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