Wedges are Supposed to be Narrow

One further rant about the Supreme Court/Hobby Lobby latest theocracy watch, now that things have slightly cooled off. Now that the mullahs on the Supreme Court have since showed just how narrow their ruling really was, and the attempt to fix that oh-so-narrow loophole was just blocked since everything has to be a supermajority.

I had a few thoughts that came up in the form of more slippery Facebook comments, and I want to want to fix in time because I think they're relevant or at least interesting enough to want to refer back to them later. And thank you to the folks on Facebook sparring with me on this so that I could clarify my thinking.

My prior screed, "Remember, It's Not a Culture Disagreement," refers specifically to dominionism and accuses those pushing this ruling of advancing theocracy. These are strong words that I chose, and they provoked some strong reactions. One pushback was "theocracy? Really? That's an overreaction." Another is "this really is a narrow ruling, and is only about one part of one badly written law."

Terms like "dominionism," "dominion theology," "kingdom now theology," and "christian reconstructionism" were coined and self-applied by their purveyors, and they describe a specific "wedge strategy" of political action intended to bring about specific changes in the United States, in the hopes that over the course of enough decades of encroachment the default standards of the nation will consist of theistic science and christian biblical jurisprudence.

Honest adherents to that line of thinking do not deny this is their ultimate goal. In fact, one might argue that the endgame of many religions is some sort of "kingdom of god" on earth. But that discussion is out of scope here. There is some christian conservative writing on the matter that takes umbrage at the label, call those that use the term "paranoid", pointing out that "evangelicals generally don't want to take over the world." 

This is similar to a current popular strategy of casting members of a dominant ruling class as a persecuted minority, and this strategy is effective... for example when a small number of people demand the right to marry whomever they choose, it is presented as "traditional marriage under attack." In this case, the strategy of illustrating christians as religiously persecuted is augmented with an ad hominem fallacy, distracting the discussion away from the subject of religious encroachment into secular civil society by putting the accusers on the defensive, portraying them as paranoid, and probably persecutors. 

Even if that were true, if you claim your motivation to political action is basically "I don't want to take over the world, I just want my country's laws to be based on my religion and apply to everyone," then you don't really understand how fanatical groups come into power. You don't actually have to have everyone agree with the most extreme view, you just need to have enough people on board with the parts that make you feel good. Excellent examples are Iran and Afghanistan. Iran is (not "was") one of the world's great civilzations, but the regime that is still in power there got there by subterfuge and collusion by relatively few strategically placed people. 

Collusion and subterfuge.

The Plan B pill is birth control medicine. It is not an abortifacient. But even if we were to grant that a legal abortifacient should be given special consideration (which it shouldn't), that wouldn't matter because Plan B is not an abortifacient, even as agreed upon by senior Catholic ethicists, whose opinions should not apply anyway, but what the hell let's grant it for now to advance the argument.

The collusion is this (apologies in advance for the baseball analogies, but Chief Justice Roberts really liked using them in his confirmation, so I'll respond in kind). The people bringing the Hobby Lobby case telegraphed the pitch. They threw a slow, easy ball to the batter, knowing almost certainly that the five predicatble justices would hit it out of the park. 

This is precisely what those five justices were put on the bench to do, wedge the door open a little further, and they did it perfectly. Is the Affordable Care Act badly written? You bet it is. Those who drafted the Affordable Care Act didn't have the leverage or backbone to say "no, screw you, birth control is health care, this is the way it's gonna be, take your medieval-ass social engineering and go open a monastery." But they caved because that's what democrats do, and the guys that made them cave *knew* that this was going to be the result. They love to write that this was a narrow decision so the ruling seems legit. But it's only a narrow ruling if it's the only thing that ever happens. 

A wedge is narrow, and this is a wedge. It's a long-standing self-acknowledged dominionist strategy, and the democrats fell for it like they always do, because they're too stupid to look more than three months into the future.

I'm clearly more infuriated by the bigger picture than the specifics on this ruling. I guess that's why Justice Ginsburg's dissent was so powerful, because it situates the ruling in a cultural context as it should. A justice like Ginsburg or Thurgood Marshall understood that everybody is always legislating from the bench, we just call it that when we don't like it. This thing where white christian men say that justices ought to put blinders on and only look at what has been set in front of them? That's an age-old rhetorical tool of oppression.

And it's an effective tool, because rational people want everyone do be fair, and when their agents claim to be impartial, we want to believe them. They have the luxury of saying "look, I have to rule this way because x,y,z, I just call them as they are." They only seem impartial because they are in complete collusion with dominionist legislators, an occasional dominionist executive, and dominionist foot-soldiers that are astroturfed to look like a grassroots movement.

And so, another baseball analogy.:

Three umpires walk into a bar, arguing about the nature of how we construct reality, calling strikes.

The first umpire says "I just call them as they are."

The second umpire says "I just call them as I see them."

The third umpire says "they ain't nuthin' until I call them."

The first umpire is what everyone says we want in a Supreme Court justice. But it's the fiction of positivism. Total fiction. But it's a fiction that small minds buy into because it's scary to think that we make reality as much as we do.

The second umpire is waffling. That's what democrats do.

The third umpire is speaking truth.

If a Supreme Court justice got to where she or he is and honestly believes that they "call them as they are," they are manipulating. Because they are far too smart to actually think that. They know fully well that they are all the third umpire, but they also know that they have to perform for their ultimate masters—the senators who confirm them, and the public. Because in the end the legitimacy of judicial review rests on the collective belief that that's what they should be doing.