Friday, October 14, 2005

Splintered GOP

For some reason, I'm on the mailing list of Manuel Miranda. This name may ring a bell as the Orrin Hatch staffer who was fired for stealing computer files from Senate Democratic computers regarding their plans to block Bush's more extreme judicial nominations. I've since maintained a sort of email conversation with Manuel, who I think is a personally decent guy, but in my opinion totally deluded about the GOP's current relationship to public opinion.

Our last email conversation related to the filibuster debate. He strongly supported the "nuclear option" and was in fact actively lobbying for its use should it come to that. The "Deal" that was struck between GOP and Democratic senators was very demoralizing to him, and I wrote him in response to an article he wrote about that demoralization, pointing out how the GOP's capacity to do whatever it wants is eroding.

Anyway, all this is a long preamble to a link he sent to me (and I'm sure to lots of other people) to an article he wrote in the conservative weekly Human Events.

This was my response:
Dear Manuel,

I got your link. I want to thank you for your views, which I found be of great practial and academic interest.

I would point out, however, that the loss of credibility of the GOP among the public is revealing a deep schism between the movement Republicanism that you, Brownback, Concerned Women for America, and Dobson represent and the aw-shucks Republicanism of those who voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. Honestly, I don't think that the far right has ever held much more than a cynical sort of sway with Bush on issues of abortion and gay rights (two issues about which much of this maelstrom appears to spin), knowing as he and Rove do that to overturn Roe would significantly collapse their support among women and most moderates in the coming decades (so much for 40-year hegemony).

You guys have too long focused on the polling question, "Do you think abortion is ok?", and not enough on the question, "Do you think it should be made illegal?" Most people, including myself, answer "no" to both. The pro-life/pro-choice distinction is a false one -- I can think of no one in the pro-choice community who actually likes the idea of abortions, just as no one likes the idea of mastectomies (not that they're truly comparable surgical interventions).

A weighted 50-state poll (compiled 9/12/05) showed that most people are pro-choice by a 56%/38% margin. Only 10 states (Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Idaho, Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana) are 50% or greater pro-life, three states are still majority pro-life but at a less-than-50% rate (S. Dakota, Missouri, Oklahoma), while the rest are majority pro-choice, 18 of which went to Bush in 2004.

Another 50-state compilation (7/18/05) found that a majority in every state believes that neither the state government nor the federal government should have a say on the abortion question (Utah polled at 52% in the "government should have no say" while Mississippi polled at the next lowest level at 58%). Man, that's so libertarian it's not even Federalist anymore! Apparently, for most of us, it's something that should not be legislated at all, i.e., it's a personal right (right to privacy, whatever) that must not be abridged by legislation or even by the constitution as interpreted by you lot.

Yours is a fringe movement that has been very successful at convincing a large of number of people that you represent their views, when you don't. The President, in his currently weak position, recognizes this -- he doesn't want to let you out of the closet right now, so he nominated someone who was unlikely to be as radical as a some of the other women candidates on his short list. He says he doesn't pay any attention to polls, but right now you can bet he does.

This issue, in the context of the other problems faced by the GOP, reveals what we progressives have always thought was so unnatural about the current Republican alliance -- culturalism combined with libertarianism. Eventually that kind of ideological chimera must meet its Bellerophon, here in the form of an advancing dissonance between a spend-and-don't-tax/endless-war GOP drunk with its own power and mainstream concerns. The President knows that the chimera can only be shielded by hiding one of its many forms. I wonder if the Dems, provided Miers shows any level of competence in her hearings, wouldn't do well to uniformly support her (though I secretly loathe the idea, like anyone that hates cronyism), kicking up dust if only to get the hidden, naughty parts of the GOP to reveal themselves.

But even if she withdraws, the President chooses to nominate someone else (which would be out of character for this President), or she's denied confirmation (a possibility even in committee), the current climate dictates that he is unlikely to nominate someone of whom you would be significantly more likely to approve.

Good luck to you. Sincerely,

blah, blah, blah
It's odd for me to have said all this stuff, for the simple reason that late last year it looked like Movement Republicanism was real and lasting. Now, I'm just pissed that they've been working for over thirty years to convince people that the Federal government should never do anything (as Grover Norquist puts it, to make "government small enough that you can drown it in a bathtub"), when a set of very important problems that only the Federal government can address have only grown in strength, such as the industrialization of agriculture and the resulting social and environemntal costs, air and water pollution, global warming and the control of carbon emissions, nuclear proliferation, the widening deficit between our educational standards and those of other developed countries, conglomerated corporate ownership of media, our dependence on Middle East oil, globalization and the war on local farming, and, of course, poverty.

All this is made deeply ironic and frightening given how massive the annual federal deficit has become. Like $250 million to build a bridge to 50 people on an island off the coast of Alaska. If I lived there, I'd rather have $250 million / 50 = $5 million per person. Then I could buy a private jet. Or a private yacht to ferry me across the straights.

I just wish they would stop wasting our time. I'm getting gloomy here, folks! Mommy!