Thursday, October 27, 2005

They need a guarantee, but no promises

Liberal blogs are wondering what to expect now that Harriet Miers has “withdrawn”. (I agree with TAPPED here that really the media should call a spade a spade – Bush released her).

My feeling: more chaos. You see, there’s a fundamental contradiction going on. It went on with Roberts, but didn’t spiral out of control. For Miers it did spiral out of control. Here are the two parts:

1) There is a significant part of America that wants abortion illegal. It’s not simply a “litmus test” for Supreme Court justices. It’s not simply the only factor in SCOTUS justices at all. It is the only issue in politics, and everything else (taxes, war, healthcare) gets to take a backseat until that’s fixed. They’ve passionately supported Bush so far, and are as responsible for his reelection as anyone else. And unlike businessmen, they aren’t a small elite that can be secretly told they’ll get what they want through intermediaries like James Dobson; they are the public.

Now there are many reasons for the existence of these voters, most of which reflect perversions in our political system. For 15 years demagogues have played up this issue as responsible for society’s ills. It’s tied to general cultural changes. Deontologically speaking it’s a very strong narrative. And even if a freedom of privacy is in the the Constitution, the layman doesn’t believe that or understand how. And of course no attempts have been made to compromise.

2) But they are not a majority, and for a majority it is untenable to say “this person will vote to overturn Roe v Wade”. When you do that you’re clearly making a mockery of the a-political nature of the Supreme Court, and enough independents are disgusted by that that it wouldn’t be hard for the opposition party to derail that.

These voters have been battling for over a decade for this one shining moment, and there is no way they can get it. Whether a nominee is pro-choice or pro-life, they aren’t going to say so. And that uncertainty will scare the bejeesus out of these voters. It did when Roberts said Roe was “settled law” and it did with Miers. The White House tried to leak it out through aides that she was pro-life, but it just came across as sleazy and manipulative.

This is a tension that will affect whoever Bush picks next as well. Articles theorizing that it will be about Gonzales and his torture leaning or Hispanic-ness, or the strict-constructionalist credentials of any other nominee are misleading.


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