2020 election, American Exceptionalism, Conservatism, Dona;ld Trump, Education, Law

A Note on the GenX Conservative Justices and the Law of Generations

A kindly note of reminder that generation matters.

I did a “Donald Trump and the Law of Generation” piece on “Mister” Trump, as Latinos called him, in October 2015. You may want to re-acquaint yourselves with the  generations that preceded him, for at 74 going on 75, ( I just turned 75) combined with his family’s three generations in America you might be better able to evaluate the three Generation X constitutional conservatives he appointed to the Supreme Court; Neil Gorsuch, 53, Brett Kavanaugh, (55) and Amy Coney Barrett, 48.

Now, don’t get hung up on “generation dating” as it was largely a product of Madison Avenue, who started seeing dollar-signs in their minds when all those soldiers came home from World War II. 1946 to 1964 was arbitrarily set as the Baby Boom generation much later. (I’m a Baby Boomer too, only I was born in December ’45 simply because my dad shipped home from Italy in early ’45, having first hit the beaches in North Africa in ’42. He used to brag, as my mother blushed, that I was born 9 months to the day when he got home.)

But those vets produced history’s largest generation, and therefore, the largest generation of buyers ever imaginable, since the average family size of that 1946-1964 generation were four children. By comparison, today, we are 1.24 children per family, which is worrisome on a couple of cultural counts.

I married in ’68, my first son born in 1970 while I was still in law school. My second son was born in Japan in ’74 while I was there as an Army trial lawyer. So I know something about raising Gen Xers. And I know a thing or two about lawyers as a class. So I know something about the manners and mores of middle-class Gen Xers in professional households of that period.

Generation matters, not just what marketing generation these justices were born in, but how deep their generations run into America.

  1. Neil Gorsuch was born in Denver in 1967, and is 53.  I attended an environmental conference there in ’70, and like the old Denver then. He is 4th generation Coloradan so his American bloodline goes even deeper. So there would have been interesting stories around the dinner table when the generations got together. Both his parents were lawyers, which means he was raised in an affluent home, and moved to DC when his mother was appointed by Reagan as a senior environmental official. He attended a private Jesuit prep school, his wife in English-born, and they are practicing mainstream Episcopalians. They have two daughters, and still make their main home (sounds more like a ranch) in Boulder, where he loves outdoor sports such as fly fishing and raises horses and livestock.
  2. Brett Kavanaugh was born in Washington in 1965, is 55, and is 4th Generation-Irish Catholic. So there would also have been interesting stories around the dinner table when the generations got together in their house too. His father was also an attorney, his mother a teacher, so he also was raised in an affluent middle class home. He also received a private school education and remains a practicing Roman Catholic.
  3. Amy Coney Barret was born in 1972, in New Orleans, and is 48, of Irish and French descent, multiple generations from both sides. Her father was yet another attorney, and old fashioned Catholic in that they had seven children, Amy the eldest. (My best man at my wedding was the oldest of twelve). So I assume there was a Ford Ranch Wagon in their life. Amy has broken all the rules of selfishness which is said to mark her generation, and the next (millennials) in that she decided early on that she could manage a legal career while having five children of her own, and adopting two more.  From all appearances she’s been a good, hands-on mother, and none the worse for wear.

I will keep my own counsel as to how these three justices, who carry the margin of majority in every future Court decision, are likely to rule once the Trump cases finally end up in their lap for a final show-down. I’ve simply given you some raw data.

But I do know generation matters, and I know how much or how little any generation knows and respects the shoulders it stands on will matter in much of their decision-making. These Trump cases are existential in nature as to the future of the Republic, but are likely visualized differently by my generation and theirs. They may not see the threat as I do even though they to come from God-fearing homes as well.

They may have other priorities buried deeply in their psyches from the college or law school days. Still, Sunday School and Thanksgiving dinners reach them from their more formative years. Pop music also may play a role. Who knows? But the general rule is that what they learn around the family fire are the roots that are the deepest because they got those earliest.

All these justices would have had grandparents with World War memories, thus connecting that important link into their generation, but they will likely be the last to actually have heard those memories instead of from a book. And even then, these three justices probably have no real empathy for what that world-at-the-edge-of-destruction was ever like. I know from my own grandsons that the meaning of Pearl Harbor, or seeing a daughter for the first time at 2 1/2 years old, that the hand-me-down of family history from grandparents to grandchildren, 3 generations, is about the extent of direct meaning of memories and values. The rest of the stories and the importance of the shoulders we stand on depends on things other than photos in an album, and knee-time with grandpa and grandma. And since the practice of family time has almost disappeared among families, my biggest regret, btw, maybe so is the means to  family histories down in any meaningful way. (I always wondered this about Donald Trump and his grandfather, a man I would dearly have loved to meet, much like my grandfather.)

These are the things I can’t know about out three justices.

And these are the imponderables that I can’t speak to; that even as scholars, they may not even see the threat this election fraud poses to them and their families and not just mine.

Or worse, if set into stone, their minor miscalculation may take generations to undo.

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