June 2, 2005
The European Finger . . . Dutch Vote Nee! : Why We Should Care
Should Americans care about the vote to ratify a Constitution for the European Union? Following Monday’s “non” vote from the French, the 16 million Dutch voted NO yesterday, with a resounding 62 percent rejecting the proposed EU charter.
European Union Flag
Dutch and French say Nee et Non
Should we care? It’s a very interesting development for political scientists, but how ’bout for real-world Americans?
The answer, surprisingly, comes from: Indra Nooyi, President of PepsiCo. In her speech to Columbia University where she compared the world to a hand, and the United States to the middle finger, Nooyi told us that the index finger, the European Finger, points the way:
Our index, or pointer finger, is Europe. Europe is the cradle of democracy and pointed the way for western civilization and the laws we use in conducting global business.
There is an attitude, among the international intellectual elite, that Europe does point the way. I use the word “international” elite deliberately: it’s not just Europeans; it’s not just Indra Nooyi. There are those among the American elite who would like us to move toward a more “multilateral” approach, adopting a more deferential stance toward international opinion and mores — but most troubling, international law as well.
In an essential article in the Winter 2004 issue of the Public Interest, “Multilateralism Comes to the Courts,” Ken Kersch, of Princeton, lays out in exquisite detail the movement among many American legal scholars to establish international norms and treaties in authority over domestic sovereignty. (The link goes to the Public Interest home page; to access the article, navigate to Winter 2004 through the “Archives” link.) Kersch’s quotes from scholars like Peter Singer of Princeton, author of One World (and infanticide advocate) and Martha Nussbaum of University of Chicago, and Rogers Smith of University of Pennsylvania, are troubling. But it is his citations of “cosmopolitan” attitudes among our sitting Supreme Court Justices that are particularly noteworthy:
In Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (joined by Justice Stephen Breyer) cited both the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (which the United States has ratified) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (which it has not) as evidence of an “international understanding of the office of affirmative action.” In Justice Ginsburg’s view, these international conventions provide the grounds for “temporary special measures aimed at accelerating de facto equality.” (Bold emphasis mine.)
In Lawrence v. Texas, Justice Anthony Kennedy prominently recurred to a friend-of-the-Court brief on foreign law and court decisions filed by Mary Robinson, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to a key decision of the European Court of Human Rights.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the (legal) forum — the subtext about yesterday’s vote: the European Finger seems to have a wrist below — the (pesky) people — turning the hand in another direction. That’s the populous uncertainty with a referendum, a democracy. . . it’s called a vote.
The intellectual elite — whether they be the American, European, or UN variety — don’t seem to understand the central importance to “We The People” of national identity. Or, more precisely, they don’t care. But that is a strategic miscalculation: they fail to appreciate the cohesive power that identification produces.
Nee et Non. Now they have to care.
Also see what King at SCSU Scholars says about the EU vote more generally (Cool graphs at his site.)