Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Polling for Pragmatics

Andrew Kohut says that while the country may vote for “moral values,” we live our lives in the real world of pragmatism.

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why the Democrats have been so tentative about taking a strong stand on the Schiavo case. Conventional wisdom has been that if they railed against the Republicans and their hypocritical trouncing of states’ rights, they’d be viewed as insensitive to the plight of Ms. Schiavo — basically using a Constitutional argument to let someone “starve to death,” and many Republicans have said as much. Some conservatives have been gloating privately that this kind of issue is exactly what points out the difference between them and liberals. They — the conservatives — will go to any length to show compassion for a human life while the liberals only care that the law — and trial lawyers — is upheld, and Ms. Schiavo is nothing but a pawn.

But if what Mr. Kohut’s survey shows is the true feelings of the country, the Republicans and right-wingers are skating on thin ice. Compassion in the abstract is all well and good — every sperm is sacred, every child must be born, every life must be saved (well, as long as they have a good lawyer, and that doesn’t include the death penalty). But when we are faced with the reality of watching a parent or child slip away until they are nothing more than a shell with a brain stem, no more cognizant of the world than an amoeba, the abstract ideal fades away. That’s not life, and who wants to inflict that on anyone?