Neoconservative Politics and the Supreme Court

Neoconservative Politics and the Supreme Court: Law, Power, and Democracy

Stephen M. Feldman
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 235
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfp1t
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    Neoconservative Politics and the Supreme Court
    Book Description:

    In this concise, timely book, constitutional law expert Stephen M. Feldman draws on neoconservative writings to explore the rise of the neocons and their influence on the Supreme Court. Neocons burst onto the political scene in the early 1980s via their assault on pluralist democracy's ethical relativism, where no pre-existing or higher principles limit the agendas of interest groups. Instead, they advocated for a resurrection of republican democracy, which declares that virtuous citizens and officials pursue the common good. Yet despite their original goals, neocons quickly became an interest group themselves, competing successfully within the pluralist democratic arena. When the political winds shifted in 2008, however, neocons found themselves shorn of power in Congress and the executive branch. But portentously, they still controlled the Supreme Court. Neoconservative Politics and the Supreme Court explains how and why the neoconservatives criticized but operated within pluralist democracy, and, most important, what the entrenchment of neocons on the Supreme Court means for present and future politics and law.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-8589-8
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Reagan, Cross-Pollination, and Neoconservatism: An Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    For more than twenty-five years, starting in 1980, neoconservatives stood at the intellectual forefront of a conservative coalition that reigned over the national government. Neocons earned this prominent position by leading an assault on the hegemonic pluralist democratic regime that had taken hold of the nation in the 1930s. Pluralist democracy accepts ethical relativism: No preexisting or higher principles limit the interests, values, and goals that can be urged in the democratic arena. Thus, individuals and interest groups legitimately seek to satisfy their own interests and values, whatever their content. From the diverse asserted interests and values, the government pursues...

  5. 2 From Republican to Pluralist Democracy
    (pp. 9-22)

    From the framing through the 1920s, the United States operated as a republican democracy. Citizens and elected officials were supposed to be virtuous: In the political realm, they were to pursue the common good or public welfare rather than their own private interests. The 1776 Virginia Bill of Rights, for instance, stated: “[G] overnment is, or ought to be[,] instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation, or community.” The pursuit of “partial or private interests” amounted to the corruption of republican government. Therefore, the promotion of civic virtue was paramount. “[N] o free government, or...

  6. 3 Pluralist Democracy: Dissent and Evolution
    (pp. 23-46)

    Pluralist democracy achieved hegemony during the post-World War II era as the correct theory and practice of government. Yet pluralist democracy neither went unchallenged nor remained static. The first part of this chapter focuses on Leo Strauss, a leading opponent of pluralist democracy, while the second part explains the ways in which the pluralist democratic regime changed over time.

    European émigrés, particularly Leo Strauss, an escapee from Nazi Germany, persistently opposed pluralist democracy. By the end of the 1940s, Strauss and other émigrés, such as Hannah Arendt and Eric Voegelin, were established political philosophers within the American intellectual community. Thus,...

  7. 4 On Neoconservatism
    (pp. 47-92)

    The typical neoconservative grew up in New York City in a “lower-middle-class or working-class” family. Many (though not all) were Jewish and attended City College of New York (CCNY), often because, at the time, other schools followed antisemitic admission policies. In the 1920s, numerous colleges, including Ivy League schools, began to require that entering classes display “geographical diversity,” exactly because such a requirement would curtail the number of Jewish applicants admitted from New York and other Eastern urban centers. During the 1930s, in the midst of the Great Depression, many of the CCNY students gravitated toward leftist politics. They split,...

  8. 5 The Supreme Court and Neoconservatism
    (pp. 93-150)

    In the 2008 election, the American people largely banished neoconservatives from the executive and legislative branches of the national government. Naturally, with periodic congressional and presidential elections, the ratio of conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats in positions of official power will vary depending on the most recent electoral results. Regardless, neocons will continue to wield considerable power from entrenched positions within the national government: namely, as judges on the federal courts and, most particularly, as Supreme Court justices. Although Alexander Hamilton disparaged the judiciary as the “least dangerous” branch because it controlled neither sword nor purse, Supreme Court justices, as...

  9. 6 The Supreme Court in the Future
    (pp. 151-172)

    Most commentators would agree that five of the current Supreme Court justices are conservatives, but many of those same commentators would quarrel with my characterization of four of those justices—Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito—as neoconservatives. Yet, if neoconservatism, as I define it, is compared with the other leading contemporary forms of conservatism, traditionalism and libertarianism, one discovers that neoconservatism best fits the corpus of the Court’s decisions and opinions over approximately the previous two decades. Confusion arises partly because neoconservatism overlaps with traditionalism and libertarianism. The predominant neoconservative themes, derived from the critique of pluralist democracy and concomitant...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 173-206)
  11. Selected Bibliography of Books
    (pp. 207-212)
  12. Selected Case Citations
    (pp. 213-216)
  13. Index
    (pp. 217-225)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 226-226)