Monday, November 15, 2004

Waiting for Lefty

The Moose avers that conservative judicial activism might not be such a bad thing for the left.

Much of the political talk these days centers on the ascendancy of the religious right. As a result of some over-interpretation of the post-election data, social conservatives are given credit for Bush's victory. And to the deep consternation of lefties, it appears that the fire and brimstone crowd is flexing its muscle to aggressively advance its agenda. Case in point is the crusade against Arlen Specter taking over the Judiciary Committee.

The Moose's response to the religious right's mighty advance is "bring it on." The worst thing that could happen to the Grand Old Party is overreach by the religious right. Yes, the values war has assisted the Republicans - that is because the image of the donkey is often shaped by cultural elitists who are truly out of touch with red America..

But, don't think for a moment that the country is prepared for a radical shift in the cultural correlation of forces. For instance, if a Supreme Court actually negated Roe v. Wade, that could potentially be devastating to the elephant. First, it would not outlaw abortion, the ruling would only return the issue to the states where it would be made legal in most of the country. Second, it would energize the Democratic base and force it to build a grass roots network to defend abortion. Third, and most important, it would precipitate a huge split in the Republican Party. The center would no longer hold - social moderates would be at war with the social conservative base of the party.

As the ever perceptive Mike Kinsley averred,

Although I am pro-choice, I was taught in law school, and still believe, that Roe v. Wade is a muddle of bad reasoning and an authentic example of judicial overreaching. I also believe it was a political disaster for liberals. Roe is what first politicized religious conservatives while cutting off a political process that was legalizing abortion state by state anyway. Three decades later, that awakened giant controls the government

The Moose understands that many would not want to take this risk to abortion rights that an overturn of Roe would entail. However,as the sagacious David von Drehle pointed out in yesterday's Washington Post, liberalism has become too reliant on the courts.

In earlier times, when the courts were a conservative force in American government, progressives knew how to take their case to the voters. They had no alternative. The reforms of a century ago -- trust-busting, workers' rights, women's suffrage and so on -- came via the ballot box. Conservative courts could have the same effect now.

Now that you have some time, liberals might want to go back to the political gym and build up their atrophied muscles. Maybe by taking your case to the people, you can get more in touch with them.
-- Posted at 8:25 AM | Link to this post | Email this post