So now the middle-class majority in America knows who its friends are. The names of those friends are Anthony Kennedy, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito. And those five, of course, are the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court, who ruled this week in the case of Ricci v. DeStefano. That courageous quintet upheld the principle of color-blind meritocracy, defeating, at least for now, the much different vision of race-based quotas.
On the other side is the liberal foursome of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer, and David Souter. They voted against the interest of white and Hispanic firefighters who did well on a standardized test, an exam would have promoted them to lieutenant or captain within the New Haven, Conn., fire department. To put it another way, that liberal quartet voted for continuation of the sort of race-based policies and racialist politics that have given liberalism a bad name politically. Why? Because for more than 40 years, liberals have been so desperate to achieve their vision of "social justice" that they have sometimes been willing to cheat and lie about it. And even after they are caught by the voters, or the courts, they keep doing it.
That was the gist of Justice Alito's opinion concurring with the majority, in which he asserted that the City of New Haven had resorted to "sabotage" to get its way in the New Haven 20 case. That's a strong word, but it's the correct word, because the mayor of New Haven, John DeStefano, and his city officials were willing to use legal tricks to sabotage the upward mobility of those 20 white and Hispanic firefighters.
Here's the way Alito put it in his opinion:
"But even the District Court admitted that a jury could rationally infer that city officials worked behind the scenes to sabotage the promotional examinations because they knew that, were the exams certified, the mayor would incur the wrath of [Rev. Boise] Kimber and other influential leaders of New Haven's African-American community.
This admission finds ample support in the record. Reverend Boise Kimber . . . is a politically powerful New Haven pastor and a self-professed 'kingmaker.' . . . He continues to call whites racist if they question his actions."
Who should rule America? Activists -- or the law? Obviously the Supreme Court was right to reject the sort of rancid, politicized policymaking seen in New Haven. But the vote should have been 9:0, not 5:4.
So what does this decision mean for America in 2009?
The legal message is this: Wholly race-conscious remedies are illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. (Yes, of course, the whole point of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was to eliminate race-conscious remedies, but the liberal-left is still trying to use them, as part of its endless quest for "social justice.")
And as for the political message? The answer is clear: The liberal pro-Obama segment of the legal elite does not mesh with the concerns of ordinary Americans, especially those who lack a college degree.
That is, the vision of America emanating from Ivy League law schools is that the elite should rule in the name of the "poor," for the benefit of "victims" everywhere. And so while there's much professed concern for the downtrodden, there is, in fact, much trodding down on ordinary people.
More broadly, Barack Obama's presidency can be seen as a pincer movement on the middle class--so of course Obama's lawyers were against the New Haven 20.
From the top, one of these pincers are the limousine liberals, concentrated on the East and West coasts, now hugely reinforced by trillions in bank-bailout money.
And from the bottom, the other pincer is what might be called The ACORN Vote--that is, the activist groups, which purport to speak for minorities, all of whom are now well-funded, thanks to the stimulus package. Together, they share a vision of left-liberalism triumphant: an enlarged state using its power to reward friends and cronies, ignoring the well-being of everyone else.
And so, in the middle, getting squeezed, is the middle class. You know, the people of all colors who work hard, pay their taxes, raise their kids, and play by the rules. They fight our wars, march in Fourth of July parades--and have no hope of getting a TARP bailout. All they expect is that others, too, will play fairly.
Those folks in the middle now know that they have five friends on the U.S. Supreme Court--but only five. As for the rest of Washington, well, we will discover soon enough where they all line up. Whose side is Washington officialdom on? The side of merit? Or the side of entitlement? The side of justice? Or the side of injustice?
And yes, these are good questions to ask Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Sonia Sotomayor, who, in 2008 voted against the New Haven 20--and against the American Dream.
James P. Pinkerton is a Fox News contributor. He is a former White House domestic policy adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.