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August 07, 2005

More Thoughts On Roberts' Pro Bono Work

A few serious thoughts on John Roberts' pro bono work for gay activists in Romer v. Evans, which apparently has been confounding expectations both on the right and left. Some Righties are having palpitations - they fear another Souter in the making, while the Left... well, we've been having a bit of fun with them.

I really have no brief for anyone on the right who has issues with Roberts' willingness to help gay activists win a landmark case.

To read into six hours of pro bono work a wellspring of hidden sympathy for homosexual rights is, in my opinion, a bridge too far. Not that I would have any problem with that, mind you. I just don't think that's a conclusion one can justifiably reach from a single pro bono case. But I think there are at least two important conclusions one can draw:

1. Contrary to the way he's being portrayed, Roberts is not so irredeemibly wedded to ultra-Reich-wing ideology that he'd rather die than aid what many deem a liberal cause. One would think this would be a heartening sign to Senate Democrats who vehemently oppose his nomination.

2. Roberts is the kind of man who is conscientious about doing his job, in whatever role he finds himself. Lawyers are expected to take on pro bono work, and if they do they ought to represent their clients as zealously as if they were receiving a large retainer. That Roberts evidently did so in this case speaks well for his impartiality and integrity. And if he was secretly was pulling for his clients, so much the better.

He, like many conservatives, may well have a strong Libertarian streak. Most of us are very rule-oriented, but that is not the same as wanting the federal government inside our bedrooms. Ann Althouse references a good quote from Jim Lindgren, then comments herself:

[V]ery well educated conservatives rarely fit the public stereotypes assigned to them. While very high educations tend to make liberals more consistently liberal, very high educations tend to make conservatives less consistently conservative (and thus less extreme) on social issues....

This is a bit like highly educated bloggers: while supposedly "conservative" bloggers might support Bush's court nomineees and the War on Terror, such "conservatives" often take the liberal side on some issues, such as perhaps abortion rights, gay rights, assisted suicide, and stem-cell research, and they might also believe in evolution, oppose mandatory school prayer, or favor the right to burn flags. Such a diversity of views among the highly educated left is much more rare.

Lindgren phrases his observation in terms of the right being more diverse than the left. But another way to put it is to say that the highly educated usually reject social conservatism. The position on national security is then arrived at as a separate matter.

I couldn't agree more. The more I see of Roberts, the more I like him.

Posted by Cassandra at August 7, 2005 12:56 PM

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Tracked on August 7, 2005 09:10 PM

Comments

"Very high educations" make conservatives less conservative, but liberals more liberal? Now that's a thought that carries profoundly normative connotations. The syllogism is precise:

1) The function of education is to improve the character.
2) Education makes both conservatives and liberals more liberal.
___

3) Therefore, becoming more liberal is demonstrated to be an improvement in one's character.

So far as I can see, the only possible flaw in that logic is to suggest that education is not being properly executed. Otherwise, if we accept the principle, we accept the conclusion that conservatism, by definition, is a defect in one's character.

Care to refute?

Posted by: Grim at August 7, 2005 08:32 PM

Well now I thought no one was ever going to pick up on that...

I think Lindgren's thesis was poorly- (or perhaps just incompletely) stated.

I have a theory but will keep it to myself in case anyone else wants to comment in the meantime :) If no one does, I'll be happy to lay it on you.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 7, 2005 08:39 PM

You're welcome to hold yourself in reserve for the benefit of others. But go ahead and email me your thesis in the meantime. I wasn't asking anyone else to refute the business -- it's your mind that keeps me coming around here. Therefore, it's your mind that I'm challenging now.

Posted by: Grim at August 7, 2005 08:59 PM

Will do :)

Posted by: Cassandra at August 7, 2005 09:12 PM

Although I'm warning you, you may be disappointed.

I haven't really had much time to think about it today - I was too busy. Was possibly thinking of writing about it tomorrow. But I'll send my preliminary thoughts - should be worth a laugh at least :)

Posted by: Cassandra at August 7, 2005 09:14 PM

I'll be gentle in the email. But you can see from the trackbacks that I've already placed a great weight upon you for the discussion that is had in public.

This is not a small point -- and it is one that does not touch me, personally. I am ready to be found mad. I have been so found, before, by greater authorities than are to be located in the blogosphere. I am without fear.

But if you will justify Althouse and the rest, you must prove that you and all the rest on the Right are -not- mad.

Or else, you must prove that this particular type of madness is to be envied. And that, I think, is where the truth lies -- if you wish to take a hint.

Posted by: Grim at August 7, 2005 09:27 PM

I may be too tired to take a hint :)

but I'll try.

Posted by: Cassandra at August 7, 2005 10:00 PM

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