November 18, 2005
Reapportionment Cases: Better than Labor Law Reform
A few days ago, I noted that Sam Alito was opposed to the "one person, one vote" reapportionment cases and I emphasized that in many ways, those decisions by the Warren Court were its most important, with far greater effect on modern life than Brown v. Board or Roe v. Board decisions, since both civil rights and abortion rights were moving forward on their own political steam.
But with as little as 16% of the population of some states controlling at least one chamber of their state legislatures, there was little prospect of serious reapportionment by political means. So subtract the Supreme Court and democratic reapportionment of the states might never have happened. And the anti-democratic rightwing recognized this and was prepared to make almost any deal to override the Supreme Court through a Constitutional Amendment, including cutting a deal with the labor movement.
A little context-- the rightwing in the 1960s lacked the power or will to resist passage of the Civil Rights bills or most of the Great Society, but they were still determined to filibuster any labor law reform that would repeal anti-union provisions of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Law. And they did so.
But at one point, Republican Minority Leader Everett Dirksen offered to drop GOP filibusters of labor law reform and accept repeal of "right to work" laws-- section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act -- throughout the country in exchange for the labor movement dropping its opposition to a constitutional amendment to override the reapportionment decisions.
To his credit, AFL-CIO leader George Meany told Dirksen to go to hell:
As badly as I want 14(b) repealed, I do not want it that badly. And the Senate Minority Leader and all his anti-labor stooges can filibuster until hell freezes over before I will agree to sell the people short for that kind of deal.And so rather that taking the only serious deal for labor law reform in the post-WWII period, the labor movement accepted the greater historic importance of the reapportionment decisions for our country.
In opposing the reapportionment decisions, Sam Alito made it clear that this was not merely an abstract legal position but part of his more general alignment with the rightwing politics of the 1960s, including an allegiance to the National Review , which opposed civil rights and democratic equality in the states with all its intellectual vigor in that period.
Posted by Nathan at November 18, 2005 09:04 AM