Thursday, September 23, 2010

School Desegregation in Action (cont.)

In reaction to a Washington Post article on the real-world outcome of the Parents Involved decision, Guy writes that the Court's impact "has been negative at best."  I am not sure what he means by this, especially in light of the very passage that he cites.  For example, and as the article explains, Seattle stopped its efforts to implement a policy of classroom diversity; school assignments were changed in many places, including New York City and Beaumont, Texas; and teacher assignment plans were struck down in Memphis and Cincinnati in cases that cited Parents Involved approvingly.  It is hard to conclude from these facts that the impact of the Court's opinion "has been negative at best."  This is an important question.  I wish he'd tell us exactly what he means.

Whichever way one feels about the impact of Parents Involved, his comment does point to one of the most interesting aspects of the Supreme Court's role in American society.  Why in the world would any political actor acquiesce to a mandate from the Court?  

Take, for example, President Roosevelt and the Four Horsemen; President Truman in the aftermath of the Steel Seizure cases; President Nixon, Watergate, and the US v. Nixon case.  More recently, I have in mind Vice President Gore's concession speech in the wake of Bush v. Gore. This is what he said:
Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court’s decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.
This is a remarkable statement on many accounts.  Gore disagrees with the Court "strongly," and yet accepts it.  Why would he, or anybody else for that matter, ever do that?

Answers to this question demand far more care and attention than I could give them here.  For the moment, it suffices to say that the Post article leaves me underwhelmed.  Of course the Louisville district fought back, hiring consultants and retaining lawyers, redrawing boundaries and buying more buses.  Why would be expect them to do anything else?

The better question is: why didn't every affected district respond similarly?

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