John Paul Stevens as a prototypical WASP

There’s been a lot of talk about the fact that soon there will be no WASPs on the Supreme Court. What does it mean? And does it really matter?

What’s fascinating is that John Paul Stevens was nominated to the Supreme Court as a moderate Republican who gradually moved further to the left as he got older.  What strikes me is his strong sense of principle–even to the extent of making decisions that could not possibly be seen as helping his ethnic group. After all, that’s what being principled means: Doing something because you value an ideal, not because there is anything in it for you. If I don’t steal something because I am afraid of getting caught, it’s not a matter of principle. But if I refrain from stealing some money it even if there is no possibility of being caught and even if getting the money would mean a lot to me, then I am acting on principle.

Stevens’ liberalism meant that despite being nominated by a Republican, he timed his retirement to occur during a Democratic administration. Even without knowing who would be the Democratic president, he surely knew that a Democratic president would nominate someone quite unlike himself to fill his position. The chances of any Democratic administration appointing a WASP to the Supreme Court are less than zero. And of course, Obama appointed someone who seems to all appearances to be a strongly identified Jew — not to mention that she has no visible qualifications and has benefited immensely from Jewish ethnic networking.

Much the same could be said about David Souter–another WASP appointed by a Republican who chose to retire during a Democratic administration and was replaced by a Latina.

The result is that the Obama administration has has had two appointments very early on, predictably appointing people who represent two important Democratic constituencies–Latino and Jewish. (Jews contribute at least 60% of the money for the Democratic Party, and Latinos are an increasingly important component of the non-White ethnic coalition that the Democratic Party has now become.)

Stevens therefore is the ultimate non-ethnic actor. This is reflected in his writing:

“The ideas of liberty and equality have been an irresistible force in motivating leaders like Patrick Henry, Susan B. Anthony, and Abraham Lincoln, schoolteachers like Nathan Hale and Booker T. Washington, the Philippine Scouts who fought at Bataan, and the soldiers who scaled the bluff at Omaha Beach,” he wrote in an unusually lyrical dissent [in a 1989 flag burning case]. “If those ideas are worth fighting for—and our history demonstrates that they are—it cannot be true that the flag that uniquely symbolizes their power is not itself worthy of protection.

Ideas are worth fighting for, but Stevens has no interest in advancing the cause of WASPs as an ethnic group. Here he idealizes non-White Filipinos fighting alongside Whites to secure a set of principles. He has no concern that there will be no more WASPs on the court for the foreseeable future, presumably because he thinks that what’s important is that certain ideas will continue to guide the country.

Writing in the LATimes, Gregory Rodriquez framed the the issue by titling his article “The triumph of WASP culture“: the lack of WASPs means the WASPs have won. The multicultural left should build statues to Stevens and Souter as heroes of the hopeful non-White future. Their principled sense that ideas matter and that race and ethnicity are not at all important is exactly how the multicultural left wants all Whites to behave. WASPs as the proposition ethnic group heralding America as the proposition nation.

This devotion to universalist ideas is a strong tendency in the liberal WASP subculture that has been such an important strand of American intellectual history. (See my review of Eric M. Kaufmann’s The Rise and  Fall of Anglo America.) (The exception was during the 1920s when the WASPs sided with the rest of America when they led the battle to enact the immigration restriction law of 1924 which drastically restricted immigration and explicitly attempted to achieve an ethnic status quo as of 1890. Even then, there were substantial numbers of WASPs who opposed immigration restriction.)

In the 19th century, this liberal WASP tradition could be seen in their attraction to utopian communities and their strong moral revulsion to slavery that animated the cause of abolition. Ideas matter and are worth fighting for–even if more than 600,000 White people died in the battle –“Let us die to make men free” as the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” urged. They had the idea that people are able to fashion moral ideals and then bring them into being as a result of political activism. They were individualists who saw the world not in terms of ingroups and outgroups, but as composed of unique individuals. Their relatively tepid ethnocentrism and their proneness to moral universalism — ethnic traits in my view and in  the view of many WASPs in the 19th century — made them willing allies of the rising class of Jewish intellectuals who came to dominate intellectual discourse beginning at least by the 1930s.  Even by the 1920s, the triumph of Boasian anthropology meant that appeals to WASP ethnicity would fall on deaf ears in the academic world.

And now that the forces of liberal cosmopolitanism have won out, the WASPs — even the liberal ones — are being rapidly jettisoned by our new, substantially Jewish elite. The replacement of Stevens by Kagan is deliciously paradigmatic.

Kaufmann points out that one of the defining features of the  WASPs is the tendency to believe that as a result of assimilation everyone would be just like them. Immigrant Catholics would shed their religion and become proper Protestants. In fact, becoming a WASP wasn’t all that hard if you had enough money, dressed right, joined the right clubs, and became an Episcopalian or Congregationalist. As I wrote about growing up in Wisconsin:

I think we Catholics did feel a bit separate from the Protestants, especially the well-off Protestants. … But the divisions didn’t seem very important (ethnicity wasn’t an issue) and there was a certain amount of mobility among the groups. In any case, no one felt like an outsider. We certainly did not have the intense hostility toward the WASP elite that has been so typical of Jews.

I suspect therefore that Stevens and Souter think, perhaps unconsciously, that the people who replace them will be just like them in the sense that they will uphold the same ideals. The republic will live on but with different faces–a utopian idea, to say the least.

In fact, it is far more likely that now that the WASPs are gone, the Supreme Court and every other important institution will be divvied up as an ethnic spoils system, especially for the Democrats as they try to appease the various parts of their ethnic coalition. And the Republicans will doubtless appoint at least some non-Whites to show that the principles of WASP idealism are not dead.

The reality is that the  various non-White ethnic groups jockeying for power in America are not like the WASPs at all. Their powerful sense of ethnic identification means by definition that they are unprincipled–that they can be reliably predicted to see things in terms of what is good for their ethnic group. Sotomayor’s “wise Latina” comment comes to mind, and Kagan’s strong ethnic identity implies that she, like the rest of the Jewish community, will be mainly motivated the old dictum of “what’s good for the Jews”: the Supreme Court as a lifetime legislative appointment to be used to advance the interests of their ethnic group. Kagan’s unprincipled views on issues such as free speech are entirely within the mainstream of the Jewish community. Indeed, in one of her law review articles she anticipated the recent hate crimes legislation that was pushed so strongly by the ADL and supported by the rest of the organized Jewish community. The most glaring aspect of Jewish political behavior now is their remarkably unprincipled support for the multicultural left, including massive non-White immigration in the United States while at the same time providing unquestioning support for an apartheid, racialist Israel with laws that make Arizona’s immigration laws pale by comparison.

Stevens and Souter are naive. Their devotion to ideas and principle along with similar attitudes of a very large number of like-minded Whites will cast a long, deadly shadow as we head into the  future.  All the research shows that ethnically divided societies are prone to conflict and have less of a civic sense — for example, people in ethnically divided societies are less likely to contribute to public goods like health care. The new elite is much more likely to act out their historical grudges against the White majority than to uphold WASP ideals. Ethnicity matters.

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