Thursday, March 31, 2005

Second Guessing from the Right

Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit), in an essay in Salon.com (subscription/Day Pass), wonders if the Republicans are in trouble.

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.

Schiavo hysteria certainly has some Republicans in its grip. Bill Bennett wrote that state law doesn’t deserve our respect if it conflicts with natural law. Bennett went on to urge Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to risk impeachment by violating the orders of the Florida Supreme Court. Fox News’ John Gibson was less measured. “Just to burnish my reputation as a bomb thrower,” he wrote last Friday on the Fox News Web site, “I think Jeb Bush should give serious thought to storming the Bastille.” In other words, Bush should consider sending police in to remove Schiavo from the hospice and reattach her feeding tube. “The point is, the temple of the law is so sacrosanct that an occasional chief executive cannot flaunt it once in a while, sort of drop his drawers on the courthouse steps and moon the judges, as a way to protest the complete disregard courts and judges have shown here, in this case, for facts outside the law,” Gibson wrote.

[…]

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.

As the post below points out, there are all too many people willing to take up the mob mentality in pursuit of their agenda. That’s one reason I am one of the few who is not upset that the Democrats by and large stayed out the Schiavo story — things like this bring out the bats.

Forgive me for feeling a tad smug, but I love it when conservatives start second-guessing themselves. It makes them appear, oh, I don’t know…what’s the word…liberal.