Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Don't exclude a voice

It is a curious thing when one side or the other say that they are adamantly opposed to something, then turn around and use the issue to support their action. It doesn’t matter if it is the left, the right or what seems to be the lonesome middle, everyone does it.

In the book, “The Nine”, Jeffery Toobin documents such an incident. The book is about one of the longest reins of a single group of Supreme Court Justices in history. It covers the years from the late 70’s to the 90’s. On July 1, 1991, George H. W. Bush announces from the summer White House in Kennebunkport, Maine that he is nominating Clearance Thomas to the Supreme Court. Thomas is to replace Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to set on the court. Yet, in the announcement, Bush claims that the fact that Thomas, “is a black and a minority has nothing to do with this” nomination.

Many years later the country would debate if nominees had enough experience as a judge, it any at all, to be a Supreme Court Justice. Yet, Thomas had served as a judge for only a year. Again, many justice nominations later, the country would debate that if it was important for nominees to have experience as an appeals judge. Again, Thomas never served on any appeals court nor argued a single case in front of an appeals court. The country would debate the value of a justice that has not been published – as in writing a book, an article or a legal brief of any magnitude. Yet, Thomas did none of those things and was nominated for the court.

It also caused a bit of trouble in another way that made many Republicans uncomfortable at the time, and may still. Thomas and other stalwart members of the Grand Old Party didn’t believe in preferential treatment because of race. Yet, this nominee and soon to become justice, was selected for nomination because of the color of his skin.

The truth is, in politics we make these same choices every day. If the intention is to exclude a race because the group is unqualified in its entirety, then it is an act of evil. It is a decision that has no basis in fact nor has any virtue at all.

But, if someone was selected, in part, as a sincere attempt to broaden the voices of opinion then it is a sound and valuable process. Regardless if we want to admit it, all races bring a different perspective to any opinion. The various lives that all Americans live may lead us to a common opinion. But, the many paths that were followed may provide a road map for the great diversity of individuals. To not consider the background and the race of an individual given the same ideologies is to deny the wisdom that comes from this American Experience.

Politics and the resulting community that comes from it is not an exact science. It is not like math that always gives the same result for the same variants. Community is a social science. Most of the time we are not making black and white decisions. (Perhaps a curious choice of words given the discussion.) Community deals in shades of grey. A discipline more akin to soft logic then the cold realities of 2 plus 2 equals four.

While there are absolutes that are common to all, communities survive because we consider all of the voices, not because we deny any one of the voices.

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