3/28/2005

Big government conservatives

From John Brummett of the Arkansas News Bureau:
We must amend the American political lexicon. No longer may we refer to "small-government conservatives." No longer may we refer to conservative Republicans defending states' rights and resisting a large and centralized federal government. Now we must refer to big-government conservatives. Now we must refer to conservative advocacy of activist federal judges. Now we must refer to federally centralized conservative government and to conservative intrusions into states' rights and private lives. The prototypical modern big-government conservative? It's the snarling and ethically impaired House Republican leader, Tom DeLay. One day he's dictating Texas congressional districting from Washington. Another day he's pursuing theocratic initiatives such as calling the House back into session to wrest from the state courts and assign to the federal courts an individual family health matter in Florida, and to do so on a purely personal moral basis, and a thoroughly unconstitutional one. But there are countless other examples, albeit far less dramatic. I could cite the Arkansas Legislature, which has filed more than 3,000 bills to be dealt with by April 15, most of them seeking to impose evangelical religion on law, provide corporate tax breaks and spend recklessly for self-serving pork back home from a little surplus that arose from tight budgeting and better-than-expected tax receipts. Big-spending conservatives - I forgot to mention those. It's quite fair to call some Democrats "tax-and-spend liberals." But it's just as fair to refer to many Republicans as "cut-and-spend conservatives" or "borrow-and-spend" ones. The heavy hand of this new big-government conservatism got its most vivid and powerful display last Sunday. That was with the emergency congressional vote and presidential signature to wrest from Florida courts and assign to the federal judiciary the horribly tragic case of Terri Schiavo. She's been brain-damaged for years. Her husband has wanted to disconnect her feeding tube. Her parents have wanted to keep her alive. Big-government conservatives have rallied in support of the parents, based on their right-to-life views. It all came to a head last weekend when the parents exhausted their nearly two-dozen court appeals, and Terri's feeding tube was disconnected in keeping with her husband's wishes and what he believes hers would be. Congress passed a bill that George W. Bush signed to give the parents new options in federal courts. DeLay gave a news conference to say Terri's husband was no kind of man. The arm of the federal government had seldom been so long or targeted with such precision. Simply, there is no constitutional basis for Congress to wrest such a matter from state courts or for Congress to assert a right to life or usurp a husband's authority and responsibility. Our new and embedded Republican majority is threatened by nothing except the Republicans themselves, through arrogance and overplayed hands. Americans are recoiling. A poll for ABC News showed that Americans, by 63 percent to 28 percent, supported the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube, and by a 25-point margin opposed any law mandating federal review of her case. A full 70 percent called it inappropriate for Congress to get involved. By 67-19, those polled thought Republicans were trying to keep Schiavo alive more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved. If the cynicism of that last finding is accurate, then Republicans have misjudged prevailing public opinion for the first time in a long while. It may be that Americans don't like big-government conservatives any more than they liked big-government liberals.

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