Principles Of Unsurpassed Ugliness

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney is taking legal advice from Robert Bork, the failed conservative nominee to the Supreme Court who says things like this about the 1964 Civil Rights Act:

The principle of such legislation is that if I find your behavior ugly by my standards, moral or aesthetic, and if you prove stubborn about adopting my view of the situation, I am justified in having the state coerce you into more righteous paths. That is itself a principle of unsurpassed ugliness.

Ian Millhiser points out that Bork actually subscribes to this "principle of unsurpassed ugliness" when it comes to pornography or sexual acts performed by consenting adults, he only thinks it's "ugly" when it comes to black people having a right of access to places of public accommodation. Setting aside the human capacity for "ugliness" displayed throughout human history, it takes an incredibly skewed moral perspective to look at the treatment of black people in the American South in the 1960s and conclude that the people representing a "principle of unsurpassed ugliness," were those being attacked with bricks and fire hoses. Jim Crow was enforced through violence or the implicit threat of it -- it's not like it was a world free of coercion until the federal government showed up to ruin the South's freedom paradise. 

Few conservatives today would cop to such a view specifically in the context of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but Bork's basic view -- that coercion by the state is "ugly" when it involves the federal government preserving the fundamental rights of minorities -- remains a core principle of the conservative movement. Just ask Texas Governor Rick Perry, who wants to see constitutional amendments to ban abortion and same-sex marriage.

Bork isn't the only ideologue advising Romney. He's also taken on as an adviser Steven G. Bradbury, the former head of the Bush-era Office of Legal Counsel who wrote several memos reassuring the Bush administration that its torture program was legal. Few conservatives, however, seem to view the state coercing people through torture to be a principle of "unsurpassed ugliness."

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