Hierarchy v. Fairness

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6 mins read

The right-wing—which until recently loved the 10th Amendment and revered states’ rights—is now fine with sending federal troops to trample states’ rights.

Meanwhile, Trump canceled his convention because of COVID while insisting that schools open.

From Andy Slavitt’s thread yesterday: the people dying from COVID-19 are largely “essential workers” and those without the privilege of staying home.

In other words, Trump plays golf, while insisting that others go to work and expose themselves to COVID.

It’s all about hierarchy v. fairness. 

Hierarchy people think there’s a natural order: Some people belong on top. Others at the bottom. They don’t believe equality is possible. For them, the purpose of government is to allocate power. When hierarchy people are in power, they try to solidify their power and grab more. They assume everyone uses government this way.

Fairness people, in contrast, believe equality is possible. For them, the purpose of government is to give everyone equal opportunity and prevent cheating. Democratic leaders, therefore, spend their time trying to do things like give everyone healthcare. Hierarchy leaders, on the other hand, try to take the healthcare away because, they argue, the people at the top shouldn’t have to pay for the people at the bottom—a policy which reinforced the hierarchy.

Ted Cruz thinks giving billion-dollar tax cuts to the rich is “good government.” Meanwhile, he tells a lie to justify forcing people to work in dangerous conditions.

Hierarchy also informed the Confederacy: Those at the bottom labor and die. Those at the top live in luxury. Why do you think Trump feels such an affinity for the Confederacy?

In Portland, federal officers are tear-gassing protesters and arresting people without reason to believe they’ve committed a crime.

Q: Does this take us forward into some unknown place where we’ve never been before, or is this looping us backward to a previous era?

A: Both, depending on who you are.

For most of US history, local police were completely unfettered. Before the Fourteenth Amendment—added to the Constitution after the Civil War—there were few limits on states could do. That’s why we had slavery.

After the Fourteenth Amendment, states insisted on the right to police as they pleased under the Tenth Amendment.

Police power during the first half of the 20th century was largely used to keep Black men in line. From the 1930s to the 1960s, the Supreme Court heard police brutality cases (Black men were usually the defendant) and began restricting what police could do under the 14th Amendment. 

The right-wing didn’t like it. At all. 

Chambers v. Florida (1940) was a case in which several Black men were tortured until they confessed to a crime. The Supreme Court held that convicting a person based on a coerced conviction violates the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Supreme Court also held that defendants were entitled to a lawyer, and arrests could not be made without probable cause to believe the person committed a crime.

Right-wing hierarchy people called these decisions federal overreach and said that the Tenth Amendment allowed states to manage their own policing. They claimed that hampering the police would make it easier for people to commit crimes.

“Law and order” was code for: let the police do whatever they wantso that the hierarchy can be maintained.

Now things have reversed: Under Trump, it’s the federal government that wants to maintain the hierarchy, and local governments (in some places) want fairness.

That’s why suddenly the right-wing (hierarchy people) reversed their position and are now in favor of the federal government trampling states’ rights. What remains consistent is the belief that police should be unhampered.

You see, the right-wing never really care about states’ rights or the Tenth Amendment: They wanted the police to maintain the hierarchy.

Fascism is all about hierarchy, so yes, Trump and pals are pushing us toward fascism.

The Confederacy, Jim Crow, and women as chattel were also about hierarchy, so Trump and pals are also looping us backward to a place we have been before.  I’ll add women were chattel and other minority communities were targeted, but the heavy hand of the police fell most heavily on Black men.

The Portland protesters are protesting police brutality and insisting that Black Lives Matters. This terrifies the hierarchy people.

They don’t believe it is about equality, equal treatment, or equal opportunity, because they don’t believe these things are possible. They think others want to replace them at the top of the hierarchy. 

It’s not 1968 anymore. The GOP scare tactics that worked in the 1960s when Nixon chanted “law and order” don’t work now. America has changed. 

The majority of white people also want fairness, so the GOP— the Party of Hierarchy—is in deep trouble. 


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Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and CNN.com. Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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