San Diego Law Review

Library of Congress Authority File


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Liberals and progressives typically look to the national government to make policy aimed at achieving social justice. Historically, that is not without reason. As Professor Kathleen Morris of Golden Gate University School of Law put it in a recent email exchange, "social elites reached for the federal level in large part because the states and localities proved themselves to be genuinely terrifying to marginalized folks between 1860 and 1980.”

Few things remain constant in the struggle for social justice, however. The liberal and progressive national focus backfired as conservative and right-wing forces built power in state legislatures, enabling them to control national outcomes through gerrymandering and voter suppression and to assert power at the local level by enlisting the police. “In the forty years between 1980 and 2020,” Kathleen adds, “the feds have grown more terrifying, which is why progressives are now turning more attention to the local level.”

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