Let me begin where Justice White began.
First, Justice White believed in the law. He believed both in its power and in its legitimacy. His constitutional judgments were rooted in a fundamental premise--that the application of law in a democracy is not something to be feared; rather, the exercise by government of legitimate authority is essential, and welcome, in a free and democratic land.
Second, Justice White did not equate the "law" with courts or the decisions of courts. Justice White did not embrace the notion, commonly expressed across the political spectrum, that the Third Branch is actually the first among the coordinate branches of our federal government. (1) For him, the preeminent lawmakers in our constitutional government--through which law derives its legitimacy from the consent of the governed--are our legislatures, with federal law clearly supreme over state authority. In his view, whenever the United States Supreme Court constructs new limitations on agencies of government, it bears the heavy burden of justifying its refusal to defer to Congress, state legislatures, juries, and the other institutions of republican democracy.
Third, Justice White had confidence in democratic institutions, and, at the threshold, he had confidence in public officials. He began with a presumption that those who hold positions of public trust generally act in good faith. To be sure, the presumption was rebuttable, and it surely could be overcome or destroyed by the factual record before him. But he never expected or demanded perfection from government, for he well understood that neither human beings nor any institution they create can be flawless.
These principles on which Justice White built his jurisprudence--respect for the law, respect for Congress as the principal engine of legitimate …