The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Switch in time as story arc

As a factual explanation (piece earlier today), the switch in time that saves nine is a bust: there wasn't so much of a switch, and what there was didn't do any saving. Changes in SCOTUS alignment were gradual and messy.

But the switch has the power of a narrative arc. For liberals (the victors who got to write the history), it is, in the motto of the so-called Frank Luntz Playbook, words that work:

The reactionary old fossilised relic of unbridled capitalism was something of a fixture in Hollywood movies of the time: the example that springs to mind is Potter, the Lionel Barrymore character in It's A Wonderful Life. Old Man John Rockefeller was his real-life equivalent.

Patrician FDR lead the Wave of the Future, with the Brain Trust and those nice young soft-handed men like Alger Hiss that never used a pick-axe handle either to swing a pick or brain a striking worker, men who devised alphabet-soup programmes for social, communal uplift of the ordinary people. (Cue Ma Joad...)

The Four Horsemen had served the Rockefellers; a biblical downfall was required.

(This from the media-political nexus conspired [1] to hide Roosevelt's wheelchair from the suckers. Er, voters.)

The form of the story, and the way it's told, will have changed over time - there should be a book about it somewhere.

With the nomination of John Roberts, we may be spared the need to bone up on the filibuster. But SCOTUS history will undoubtedly be traduced for present political gain by both parties.

It's not clear whether Roberts is one of the guys who want to turn the clock back to 1937. But, just in case, it would be an idea for those pontificating to refresh the memory about what actually happened in 1937!

Because, what they think happened almost certainly ain't necessarily so.

  1. Most media owners hated FDR's guts. Some conspiracy! I looked at the question on January 20 2004, and found a dead-tree-only book on the subject, but no real enlightenment online.

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