“In the heyday of liberal democracy, all roads lead to slavery,” she has warned in speeches. Society and the courts have turned away from the founders’ emphasis on personal responsibility, she has argued, toward a culture of government regulation and dependency that threatens fundamental freedoms.
“We no longer find slavery abhorrent,” she told the conservative Federalist Society a few years ago. “We embrace it.” She explained in another speech, “If we can invoke no ultimate limits on the power of government, a democracy is inevitably transformed into a kleptocracy – a license to steal, a warrant for oppression.”
To her critics, such remarks are evidence of extremism. This week, some Senate Democrats have even singled her out as the most objectionable of President Bush’s more than 200 judicial nominees, citing her criticism of affirmative action and abortion rights but most of all her sweeping denunciations of New Deal legal precedents that enabled many federal regulations and social programs – developments she has called “the triumph of our socialist revolution.”
Her friends and supporters say her views of slavery underpin her judicial philosophy. It was her study of that history, they say, combined with her evangelical Christian faith and her self-propelled rise from poverty that led her to abandon the liberal views she learned from her family.
“We discuss things like, ‘How did slavery happen?’ ” said her friend and mentor Steve Merksamer, a lawyer in Sacramento, Calif. “It comes down to the fact that she believes, as I do, that some things are, in fact, right and some things are, in fact, wrong. Segregation – even though the courts had sustained it for a hundred years – was morally indefensible and legally indefensible and yet it was the law of the land,” he said. “She brings that philosophy to her legal work.”
Now, this particular Bush appointee sounds like one that conservatives, libertarians and other genuine advocates of freedom can support. Of course, the key concept is “sounds like”, and in any case, she’s likely little more than a bone being tossed to the dogs to keep them from barking.
But it never hurts to give credit where credit is due. I wish I could do so more often.