October 25, 2005


Bad news for donkeys on religion front (James P. Pinkerton, October 25, 2005, Newsday)

The Republicans have had a bad few weeks. However, the Democrats have had a rough decade. A preacher who visited New York last week provides part of the answer.

Yes, top GOPers in Washington are in deep trouble, even as the White House braces for the negative impact of the 2,000th American fatality in Iraq. So that's one way of assessing the political situation.

But there's another way, which asks, Which party better shares the bedrock values of most Americans? That's a happier question for Republicans.

A new paper by Democratic thinkers William Galston and Elaine Kamarck, "The Politics of Polarization," argues that over the past three decades a "great sorting out" has occurred, leaving conservatives and religious believers mostly in the Republican Party, liberals and seculars mostly in the Democratic Party.

The problem for Democrats is that self-described conservatives outnumber self-described liberals 34-21. Furthermore, Galston and Kamarck - veterans of the Clinton White House - contend many moderates incline toward conservatism on social issues such as abortion, gay marriage and the public display of religion. A Pew Center poll asked, for example, if it was proper to display the Ten Commandments in a government building; 72 percent of Americans said "proper," 22 percent "improper."

As Galston and Kamarck observe, religion and the social-issue controversies it raises have been "the overriding factor" in the realignment of the parties - or, to put it more bluntly, the shrinkage of the Democratic Party. The authors regret this shrinking but don't see a reversal so long as their party is seen as anti-religious.

Viewed through this most basic lens in American politics today it becomes readily apparent why neocons and libertarians despise the President and Ms Miers so much. It's just not a plausible notion that they'll remain Republicans over the long term nor that most blacks and Hispanics will stay Democrats.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 25, 2005 11:59 AM

Brevity will suffice. We theocons had a bargain with the rest of the movement. We would be the backbone of the voter coalition that the movement rode to power. All we would ask is the end of the baby-murder regime. The Supreme Court vacancies have brought us to when the debt must be collected and the promises fulfilled, and now we are seeing other parts of the movement squirm and beg like Faustus when his bargain came due.

Posted by: Lou Gots at October 25, 2005 2:23 PM

Libertarians despise President Bush? When did that happen? That wasn't in my Official Libertarian GroupThink memo.

I also think that it's possible to view someone as unsuited to be a member of the SCOTUS yet not despise them.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at October 25, 2005 2:35 PM

They started the Nazi meme.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2005 2:39 PM

It's possible to want someone who is prolife and professionally qualified.

It's also possible to think that her positions on other issues like affirmative action are way to squishy (that's latin for "liberal") to make Harriet a reliable long term vote on the next form of judicial aggrandizement that comes down the pike.

Her nomination is going to get spiked. Then, W. is going back to the well to find someone that we can all agree will end the federal judiciary's monopoly on abortion policy. Once that's done, neos and theos at least will kiss and make up.

You may have a point about the libertarians going their own way thereafter.

Posted by: Ray Clutts at October 25, 2005 2:57 PM

Oh my gosh. I just realized that I'd misused "to" for "too" in the phrase "too squishy". My second grade teacher, Sister Gemma is rolling over even as I type.

I still believe that this isn't primarily neos v. theos. It's more of a matter of the voice of experience whispering in your ear, "Maybe we should ask for a little validation of her conservative status."

The following is a quote from Phyllis Schlafly, a notorious neoconservative. "President Bush, you said, 'Trust me.' But why should we trust you when experience proves we could not trust the judgment of President Reagan (who gave us Justices O'Connor and Kennedy) or President George H.W. Bush (who gave us Justice Souter)? Are you more trustworthy than Reagan or your father?"

This is an appointment with a longevity and a scope of action that will far outlast the remainder of Bush's term in office. Conservatives are entitled to demand that the apointee's publicly verifiable record is consistent with our expectations.

This is THE appointment that stands to shift the Court's balance to our direction for the next generation. Abortion is the preeminent issue but not the only one. Brennan did a lot of damage that has yet to be repaired and we need someone who is sound on a range of issues beyond what we can know from the limited nature of Harriet's public record.

Posted by: Ray Clutts at October 25, 2005 3:56 PM

Ray, It is not THE appointment. It is O'Connor's seat. If the worst case comes through and Miers is another O'Connor, then nothing has changed. Stevens or Ginsberg is THE appointment.

By the way, for anyone to answer, all along I've wondered, when did O'Connor become a liberal? Except for abortion, I didn't get the memo.

Posted by: Bob at October 25, 2005 4:17 PM

"Phyllis Schlafly, a notorious neoconservative".

Funny, she doesn't look neoconservative.

(Or notorious for that matter...)

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at October 25, 2005 4:48 PM

"when did O'Connor become a liberal? Except for abortion, I didn't get the memo".

Her pronouncements involving international law seemed awfully squishy (to borrow Ray's word) to me.

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at October 25, 2005 4:50 PM

Heck, conservatives invoke everything from international standards to Hammurabi.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2005 4:58 PM


As she says, Reagan was apparently a liberal too.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2005 5:00 PM

When did O'Connor become a liberal? When she and Kennedy managed to arrange things so that one of them would always side with the liberals, creating a long series of 5-4 liberal victories.

If O'Connor is replaced by a conservative, look for Kennedy to become an open liberal.

Posted by: pj at October 25, 2005 5:07 PM

Except that Breyer and Ginsburg aren't liberal.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2005 5:18 PM

O'Connor's sin is her love of insanely complicated "facts and circumstances tests" that (a) are unpredictable and (b) let the Court come to any conclusion it wants. The day the Lemon test dies will be a great day for the law.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 25, 2005 5:47 PM

David: Your choice b) really should say "let Sandy come to any conclusion she wants."

Posted by: b at October 25, 2005 5:57 PM

The former general counsel of the ACLU not a liberal? I guess nobody got the memo.

Posted by: joe shropshire at October 25, 2005 6:04 PM

Consider the source, Joe, consider the source.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 25, 2005 6:14 PM

She and Breyer haven't been on the bench. They seem to have learned the lesson of Roe.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2005 6:15 PM

David: exactly right. The Lemon test allows the Court to throw out anything which benefits religion any time it fees like doing so.

Of course this is not law; it is the opposite of law, being capricious and arbitrary.

Posted by: :Lou Gots at October 25, 2005 6:37 PM


In OJ's mind, Breyer and Ginsburg are reactionaries, trying to hold onto the dying sunlight.

But what would that make Warren, Brennan, and Douglas?

Posted by: jim hamlen at October 25, 2005 7:42 PM

Brennan was the liberal brains. Warren the brawn. On that Court Breyer, Stevens, & Ginsburg would be conservatives.

Posted by: oj at October 25, 2005 8:43 PM

I am afraid I'm not following the problem with O'Connor. Or Kennedy for that matter. Complicated tests don't a liberal make. On the whole, they have been conservative as far as I can tell. (Abortion is the great exception of course.)

Isn't OJ right? The Court is far to the right of either the Warren or Berger courts. O'Connor is only a liberal in context.

Posted by: Bob at October 25, 2005 9:12 PM

Bob: Liberal isn't all that helpful a label. As Paul Cella long ago proved, we're all liberals know. O'Connor is a moderate, which more or less means that she blows with the prevailing wind.

Posted by: David Cohen at October 25, 2005 11:12 PM