While upholding the travel ban, the court repudiated a 1944 ruling that had upheld internment of Japanese-American citizens by FDR in World War II. The lesson? History will not look kindly on hysteria and animus based on nationality, religion, etc.
Amid the cacophony of bad news that seems to dominate the public conversation, two data points stood out to us this week as worthy of attention and, dare we say, praise.
The first came on page 38 of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision upholding President Donald Trump’s executive order banning travel to the United States from a short list of mostly Muslim countries. We oppose the ban as discriminatory and wish our governmental institutions would uproot any approach to policy that smacks of racial or religious discrimination.
So what is praiseworthy here? The court gave the president the benefit of the doubt in upholding the ban, but in one sense the justices shifted the ground under the odious idea that it’s OK to create policies of exclusion.
In a few words, Chief Justice John Roberts overturned a decision that marks one of the lowest points of the high court’s history. The decision, Korematsu vs. United States, was handed down amid war panic in 1944 and gave legal cover to the policy of interning Japanese-Americans. That policy was based on (and fanned the flames of) irrational fear about Japanese-Americans during World War II. Roberts wrote that Korematsu “was gravely wrong the day it was decided” and went on to say it has been “overturned in the court of history.” Quoting a dissent from the case, Roberts wrote that Korematsu “has no place in law under the Constitution.”
If overturning an old case seems like small beer, it isn’t. Precedents matter. Symbolism matters. And the moral logic of our laws matters a great deal. In striking down Korematsu, the chief justice made it clear that racial (and religious) animus will not survive scrutiny in the long run.
The second data point that caught our attention is tangentially related and came in the form of a substantive survey by the Democracy Project, a joint initiative by the George W. Bush Institute, Freedom House, and the Penn Biden Center.
The survey found that there is widespread concern for democracy in America. A full 84 percent of Americans say they want to live in a democracy and that about “8 in 10 respondents” say they are “very concerned or somewhat concerned about the condition of democracy in America.” Fifty percent say that the U.S. is in “real danger of becoming a nondemocratic, authoritarian country.”
A pessimist might use these findings to talk up despair, but the optimist within us has a different takeaway. We agree with President Ronald Reagan when he said, “I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do.” Korematsu is now gone, and, given the dynamic nature of our society, other policies that are offensive to individual liberty can also be uprooted. We’ll go so far to say, they will be uprooted as Americans vote on their concerns about where all of this is headed.
— DALLAS MORNING NEWS