Triumph of the Scalawags

by Patrick J. Buchanan – August 25, 1997

There is a purpose to that “rat line” at Virginia Military Institute. As a mustang’s spirit must be broken to make it a war horse, so tough, willful, rebellious 17-year-old boys need to learn obedience to command to become good soldiers. A rifle platoon is, after all, neither a debating society nor a democracy.

But what was the purpose of those four VMI upperclassmen, photographed last week screaming in the face of a female cadet half their size? What would the chivalrous Robert E. Lee, beau ideal of Southern military manhood, think of 22-year-old Southern officers and gentlemen bellowing at and bullyragging 17-year-old girls?

While the accomplished young women who have chosen VMI have shown true grit and are rightly their parents’ pride, to treat them like Marine grunts is unnatural, unmanly and wrong. Young women are not to be treated like young men.

VMI used to teach that.

In justice, neither the cadets nor the faculty sought this unisex experiment. Nor did the women of VMI — the mothers, daughters, wives and sisters of cadets and alumni. The order to admit women was the dictat of a Supreme Court distorting the Constitution to impose its ideology on a free people that despises its ideology. What was done to VMI exemplifies the soft tyranny under which we live.

How were the South’s famed military schools broken? In this case, the term “outside agitator” applies. ACLU scalawags and carpetbagging New York lawyers, who never attended VMI or the Citadel but detest their traditions from afar, decided to break them.

Hauled into federal court, the Citadel, after a costly legal battle, was ordered to admit Shannon Faulkner. She washed out in a week, complaining she didn’t want to ruin her health just to make a political point. VMI was ordered by the Supreme Court to admit women or lose state funds, though Virginia’s elected legislators supported an all-male cadet corps and repeatedly voted those funds.

This is judicial dictatorship. Two military schools, beloved of their alumni, are being forced to destroy traditions that date to the day of Stonewall Jackson, though the Constitution says not a word about such schools. Indeed, had the 14th Amendment ordered all-male military schools terminated, it would not have been ratified; had the civil rights laws mandated it, they would not have passed.

The ACLU and the New York law firm of Shearman & Sterling, which argued Faulkner’s case, call it “pro bono” work. Their demand for legal fees from the Citadel and South Carolina, however, suggests they are as driven by greed as ideology. Suzanne Coe, Faulkner’s local lawyer, is demanding reimbursement for legal fees at the rate of $125 per hour ($260,000 a year), the ACLU’s Sara Mandelbaum, at $290 per hour ($603,200 a year), and Shearman & Sterling’s Henry Weisburg, the big hitter, at $450 per hour ($936,000 a year). Not bad for charity work. Feminism has graduated from being a cause to becoming a racket — in a single generation.

Total reimbursement the Citadel bashers are demanding — $6.7 million including near $5 million for Shearman & Sterling and $200 an hour for delivering documents. Oh, the price of progress.

Most Americans’ interest in this story is probably confined to how well the girls are doing in the rat line, but we had best wake up. States’ rights and state sovereignty have suffered a near-mortal blow when a school can be forced to throw out 150-year-old traditions because out-of-state ideologues detest those traditions and can find like-minded renegade jurists to agree with them. And the idea of self-government is dead when a unisex ideology, reviled by a majority of Americans, can be imposed by judicial fiat.

The present balance in the government of the United States — with unelected jurists asserting more and more power, as elected leaders surrender it — is not the system of our founding fathers. It is the sort of soft dictatorship they risked their lives to overthrow.

“The first principle of republicanism is,” wrote Jefferson, “that the lex majoris partis is the fundamental law of every society of individuals of equal rights.” Ours was to be a country where the majority imposed its rule on society, not a nation where a minority routinely used unelected judges to impose its will on the majority. “We both love the people,” he wrote Dupont de Nemours in 1816, “but you love them as infants whom you are afraid to trust without nurses, and I as adults whom I freely leave to self-government.”

In 1997, we are being treated once again like infants. It is past time to recapture our government from carpetbagging lawyers, ACLU scalawags and their black-robed accomplices on the federal bench.