The black days of October

Twenty years ago this month the Twins won their first World Series and my wife and I were married. Stellar events to be sure, but in the last week has been a lot said and written about Black Monday — October 19, 1987 — the day the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped more than 500 points (don’t blame me, I was out of the country on my honeymoon).

Then, just a few days later, another dark day — as noted by this morning’s Writer’s Almanac:

It was on this day in 1987 that the United States Senate rejected the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork on a 58-to-42 vote. Bork was one of the leaders of a judicial theory called “original intent,” which is the idea that Supreme Court justices can only base their decisions on what the framers of the constitution originally intended. If the constitution doesn’t mention a “right to privacy” then there is no such thing as a “right to privacy.” This idea was controversial, but Bork decided to enter the debate head on, and he openly discussed his constitutional philosophy with the senators. Democrats portrayed him as a radical, and when the final vote of the full Senate came on this day in 1987, Bork was rejected by 58 to 42. Republicans have since argued that Bork was the target of a smear campaign, and they began using his last name as a verb, saying that they wanted to prevent future nominees from getting “borked.” The word “bork” was recently added to Webster’s dictionary, defined as, “[Seeking] to obstruct a political appointment or selection, also to attack a political opponent viciously.” Robert Bork said, “My name became a verb, and I regard that as one form of immortality.”

Several years ago I read Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah: Modern Liberalism and American Decline.” As the two parts of the title suggest, I found the book an interesting juxtaposition of being both acerbicly entertaining and accessibly academic. Here’s one quote that describes the author’s life path:

In many ways, I understand the Sixties generation because at that stage of life, I reacted similarly. Suburban, middle-class life seemed stifling. Dixieland jazz was my rock and roll. All night partying was my escape, political radicalism my protest. The superintendent of schools in a heavily Republican suburb had to be brought in to prevent me from running an editorial in the high school newspaper calling for the nationalization of industry. Denunciations of bourgeois values rolled easily off my tongue. Fortunately, mine was not a large generation and very few of my high school classmates-none to be precise-felt the same way. There was no critical mass. By the time I got to the University of Chicago, where there were student radicals, I had been in the Marine Corps, an organization well known for teaching the reality principle to its recruits; and the Chicago school of free market economists educated me out of my dreams of socialism. I was fortunate; the Sixties generation was not.

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