No chumps from the ‘heartland’ on the Supreme Court, please

Professor Edley is apparently responding to a Texan, Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican on the Judiciary Committee, who pointed out that President Barack Obama has appointed “another person from an elite law school ... on the east coast and there are a lot of law schools, a lot of highly qualified people around the country in the heartland that should have been given consideration.” Edley writes: “This nagging question — of how well this brilliant legal mind [Kagan’s] can represent the ‘heartland’ — is one that won't go away.”

Cornyn might well have had in mind the University of Texas as a “heartland” law school that should have been considered. Cornyn’s plea could also include, of course, law schools like the University of Michigan and Brigham Young, all law schools in the “heartland.” What’s interesting about these in particular and certainly others is that they identify certain specific regions, each with its own background and development and each with a unique and very strong and particular regional identity. They are places that do not necessarily want to be Massachusetts and Berkeley. Shocking as it may seem. Why this is relevant today is because they have almost become by now “natural states” — quoting Tolstoy with the quote marks there — countries which grew organically in time to their true identity within the wider generic, one-size-fits-all matrix applied to the vast frontier in 1865 and arguably before. Their natural cultural evolution suggests indigenous republics formed in time. And their time of maturation has arrived.

Michigan, including the UP (Upper Peninsula) and Jeff Daniels, is a place all its own. It is a little like western New York and the Northeast once were but with a Midwestern agrarian backbone and without the shadow and the astonishing and provincial pretentions that come when a region like Boston, my home town, has lost its economic purpose and actual influence in the world. And Brigham Young is like a temple manifest in the scorched red desert of Utah where the Protestant Ethic fled into exile when it was driven out of Harvard and New England. And Texas is born of its own irascible mother at the Alamo and Texans, like Gov. Rick Perry, don’t care what they do at Harvard and Yale. (He went to U. Texas. He studied animal husbandry. Cows. Horses. Chickens.)

But you can see how lawyers from Texas, Michigan and Utah law schools might not share the opinion that lawyers from Harvard and Yale are better than they are. They might even not see these lawyers as “elite” but as just a bunch of crackers. Or a bunch of “crackers.” And you can see how that could cause trouble — more trouble — out there in the “heartland.”


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