Race and the Court-Packing Fight
I just finished reading Jeff Shesol’s book on FDR’s Court-packing fight. It’s terrific and provides a lot of interesting chestnuts that I’d never seen before. One thing I’ve always wondered about is why people felt so committed to the Court in a world before Brown and before the application of much of the Bill of Rights to the States. In other words, what did those who defended the Court as a defender of minority rights cite at a time when judicial protection of property rights was so unpopular?
One answer was that Southerners argued that the Court was what “saved” the region from the Civil Rights Act of 1875 and other Reconstruction legislation. In fact, during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the plan one Senator said that the object of Court-packing was school desegregation. That line of attack was still potent in 1937, and illustrates how politics makes strange bedfellows, as many liberals joined with these southern conservatives to thrwart the President’s proposal.