“As our country anxiously awaits the Supreme Court’s verdict on health-care reform, the media has reduced the case to the narrow terms of a political horserace. This characterization ignores the enormous significance of this case — a shift from the modern fight between liberal and conservative Constitutionalists back to an older and more nationally divisive debate between Constitutionalists and Confederates.
From the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution of the Confederate States of America to the Lochner-era Supreme Court, confederationists have long believed in a United States consisting of states loosely united by a small, weak central government, and they have fought for more than 230 years to prevent, undermine, and erode the Constitution. While the term “Confederate” rightly conjures up America’s sin of slavery and the racially charged movements for states’ rights and state nullification, the present-day confederationists include conservative libertarians and corporatists who support a central government too weak to regulate or tax commerce. […]
For decades after the Civil War, big corporations saw the value of a confederationist vision of a weak central government. They aligned with confederationists in the early 20th century to create a Supreme Court that struck down minimum-wage laws, child-labor laws, and laws protecting workers’ right to unionize. In the 1930s, confederationist justices struck down law after law intended to rescue America from the Great Depression. The Confederate Constitution’s call for weak national regulations and racial oppression echoed again in the 1950s and 1960s. Alabama Governor and U.S. presidential candidate George Wallace famously based his anti-desegregation platform on the principle of states’ rights, and after the Supreme Court’s momentous ruling inBrown v. Board of Education, states throughout the South claimed they could simply ignore the order to integrate schools. When Congress enacted a ban on whites-only lunch counters, segregationists claimed the ban exceeded the federal government’s authority. They lost, unanimously, in the Supreme Court.
Yet today’s Supreme Court is moving toward the confederationist framework of protecting corporate interests. From its decision authorizing corporations to spend unlimited political money in the Citizens United case to its assaults on equal pay for women and job security for older workers, the Court’s five conservatives have left no doubt about their willingness to obviate the commerce and general-welfare clauses of the Constitution to protect powerful corporate interests. It is worth noting that, throughout the last century, when the corporatist strand has conflicted with the state’s-rights position — from Lochner (in which the Court infamously overturned New York’s public health regulations in 1905) to the current Court’s reversal just this week of Montana’s anti-corruption campaign-finance law — the corporatist side has won.”
Tom Perriello | The Atlantic