3/31/2005

Conservative blogger smackdown of GOP politicians

Glenn Reynolds, aka "Instapundit," has one of the most popular conservative blogs. Today he writes in Salon:
The Terri Schiavo story is a tragedy in the truest sense. It is a case in which there are no happy endings and in which the mighty fall. One thing that has fallen is the notion of the Republican Party as a bastion of federalism and limited government. Some might argue that this notion was already in doubt, in light of the Bush administration's less-than-parsimonious budgeting, but pork is part of politics, and you have to expect a certain amount of give in that department. Widespread Republican support for legislation taking an individual case away from state judges and placing it in front of the federal judiciary is another thing. The "if it saves just one life, it's worth it" argument has more typically been associated with gun-control activists, and other groups that are generally looked down upon by Republicans, but now many in the GOP seem to have picked it up as a slogan. Indeed, the entire notion of the "rule of law" -- itself once a favored slogan of conservatives -- seems to have fallen into disrepute. Quite a few conservatives are unhappy about that state of affairs, and I wonder if it doesn't presage a realignment within the Republican Party, and the fracturing of some alliances on the right...The judge bashing has gone on, and Congress' rush to pass legislation intervening in the case was unprecedented. This is too much for some conservatives, and quite a few libertarian fellow-travelers such as myself. As Nashville Christian-conservative blogger Bill Hobbs wrote, "I have not written about the Terri Schiavo case because it is too complex, too multi-layered, and too steeped in unknown or unknowable facts for me -- indeed for most people -- to have a fully informed opinion ... I do know that the Congress did the wrong thing, intervened where it had no Constitutional right, and solved nothing."...What's surprising isn't that some people on the right are making these arguments, but that so many are not. One of the defining characteristics of conservatism, I thought, was a belief that one didn't know all the answers. And what about all that talk of federalism and limited government?...The dissent on the right -- and most of the critics quoted above have been vocal supporters of President Bush, and the war -- has led some people (including me) to wonder if the Republican coalition is going to split in the face of this abandonment of principle, especially as the national-security glue that has held the coalition together weakens in the face of success in Iraq. Some are even agitating for that result. I think it just might happen. Republicans like to point out that you have to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything. The leadership, at least, of the Republican Party has abandoned the principles of small government and federalism that it used to stand for. Trampling traditional limits on governmental power in an earnest desire to do good in high-profile cases has been a hallmark of a certain sort of liberalism, and it's the sort of thing that I thought conservatives eschewed. If I were in charge of making the decision, I might well put the tube back and turn Terri Schiavo over to her family. But I'm not, and the Florida courts are, and they seem to have done a conscientious job. Maybe they came to the right decision, and maybe they didn't; this is a hard case. But respecting the courts' role in the system, and not rushing to overturn all the rules because we don't like the outcome, seems to me to be part of being a member of civilized society rather than a mob. I thought conservatives knew this. Before things are over, they may wish they hadn't forgotten. Some activists -- like Bill Quick -- want to set up a MoveOn-type organization, only with the goal of dragging the Republican Party in a small-government direction. Others are threatening to vote Democratic next time. More, I suspect, will remain Republicans, but less committed ones: less likely to donate, volunteer, or turn out to vote. A Republican Party that was winning elections by landslide margins might not mind that. But I don't think that today's Republican Party has that luxury. The Schiavo legislation looks like that classic political misstep, a move that's dramatic enough to upset people, but not dramatic enough to satisfy the hard core. (Bush is now being savaged by pro-lifers for not doing enough.) In the end, I suspect it would have been better to stick to principle. It usually is.

Glenn Reynolds, John Danforth, the Wall Street Journal op-ed page...Keep it coming. It's people like you who can do the most to keep this country from turning into the Theocratic Christo-Fascist Zombie Brigade Nation (thanks to Marc Maron of Morning Sedition for that terminology).

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