Every child believes deeply in fairness, until the world teaches it otherwise, the kid begins picking a side in every fight and fairness becomes secondary to her team prevailing. Unfairness is universally painful, being treated unfairly hurts everybody it happens to. We all like to think we’re fair, it is a synonym for reasonable, but the fact is that adults can be fair or unfair, recognize the importance of rules to ensure fairness or defy any norm that allows any outcome they don’t want.
A reasonable person listens to a story with an open mind (to the extent possible) and assesses it as likely or unlikely based on experience and knowledge. The purely transactional listener evaluates a story based solely on how well it advances the interests he wants to advance. The mercenary listener is looking for an angle, a simple transaction, not complicated by the merits of the case, the evidence presented or that abstract quality of fairness, only how it increases advantage and enhances the desired bottom line. You have either a fairness based vision of justice, or a might makes right mentality.
You treat everyone as equal under the law or, under might makes right, you treat your friends as above the law, exempt from all legal coercion, and demand that anyone who opposes your desires be subject to the harshest of laws available (and not ruling out extra-judicial forms of discipline, which are always on the table). While you are in charge your friends and supporters don’t have to worry about any law that will stop them from acting on their strong feelings. As long as they are vocally loyal to you, you will protect them, until it is transactionally advantageous to cut them off. Because what the fuck is Fair anyway?
You can weigh the arguments on the actual facts of the case or you can weigh the arguments and frame them cleverly, to reach the desired outcome. The second way is the way of the zealot, the partisan, the political activist, the way of the Federalist Society.
The stench coming off the McConnell/Trump Supreme Court today is a reminder of how crucial nonpartisan elections are for democracy. How it is crucial to elect a few more Democratic senators, to prevent two from vetoing filibuster reform to get election and voting rights laws passed.
Norms, it turns out, don’t restrain zealots and extremists who believe only in power, and in using power to retain power (the updated definition of “conservative”). Laws can ensure a certain measure of justice, but only if they are always enforced. Selective enforcement, and the outcomes of court challenges often hinging on which party has more money to spend on an army of top lawyers, ensures rule by the most corrupt. Which, as any eight year-old will tell you, is completely unfair.