Monday, July 25, 2005

Past The Break(ing)Point

It's interesting to watch the evangelical and conservative opinion makers move the boundary markers on what to expect from President Bush's Supreme Court nominee.

For years, conservatives have been demanding a textualist in the Scalia/Thomas mold, and the president has repeatedly assured us that Scalia and Thomas are his two favorite justices and that they will be his template in choosing a new justice. Then last week, the president nominated John Roberts, a virtual cypher who, while being smart and well-liked, has testified before Congress that he actually has no judicial philosophy.

Suddenly, we're now being told that we can expect Roberts to be a good, strong "moderate"--as if that's what we expected all along. We were promised Scalia and Thomas, and we're now being told to accept Anthony Kennedy and Sandra Day O'Connor as if they were what we had always wanted. Perplexingly, most Christian leaders are going right along with it.

Chuck Colson, whom I normally respect a great deal, now writes that Christians need to loosen up on the whole Roberts thing:
Now, I understand the concern, of course. There’s a lot at stake in this and subsequent nominations. But I’m troubled by the lack of political sophistication among Christians. In matters of culture, we must view issues and events from a long-range perspective. The cultural mess we’re in didn’t get this way overnight or even over a decade. Arresting the slide and reversing the direction of our culture will take even longer.

For instance, even if the Supreme Court were to reverse Roe—which I pray they do—the struggle for the sanctity of human life would simply shift to state capitals. Christians would have to convince their fellow citizens to outlaw or severely restrict what had previously been deemed a constitutional right.
Notice how expectations are being revised drastically downward? Whereas conservative Christians have been looking for Supreme Court justices who will reject the wild judicial overreaching that gave us Roe, we're now being told "Hey, Roe is only a symptom. Even if it were overruled--which is far too much for us to expect--it wouldn't really change anything." Translation: Roberts isn't going to do a thing about scaling back judicially created constitutional "rights," so we'd better turn our attention elsewhere. But keep voting for Republicans, because deep down they're with you.

Some facts I think Mr. Colson oddly overlooks:

  • Christians have taken the "long view" on this. Roe was enacted 32 years ago. Since then, Christians have helped elect three presidents (and you could perhaps even include a fourth--Gerald Ford) whom they hoped would straighten out the mess with good appointments to the Supreme Court. And those presidents have given them John Paul Stevens, Sandra Day O'Connor, Anthony Kennedy, and David Souter. Exactly just how long a view are we supposed to take now?
  • "Unsophisticated" Christians have done the work of successfully convincing their fellow citizens on one issue--that the practice of partial birth abortion is an abomination. The entire American public overwhelmingly agrees and has passed laws to stop it. And it has amounted to squat. These laws have all come to naught. Why? Because they are continually overruled by federal courts on the grounds that they violate Roe. As it stands now, it doesn't matter if we convince 100% of the populace of our position. This is what everyone has been screaming about, and it's mind-boggling to me that Colson doesn't seem to get it.
  • Who among "unsophisticated" Christians claimed that the problem developed overnight, or that one Supreme Court justice would change it? No, the problem has been going on for over 40 years. The Supreme Court foisted on America a "right" to abortion that most people were opposed to, based on another invented right of privacy. In the years since, America's preferences have adjusted to the new legality. But Colson is crazy if he doesn't think Roe led the way on America's acceptance of abortion. Perhaps Colson feels the need to minimize the importance of Roe because he actually helped put its author, Harry Blackmun, on the Supreme Court. Whatever the reason, don't lose sight of the fact that you are being actively encouraged to lower your expectations.
When this guy turns out to be another Anthony Kennedy, the evangelical/conservative pundits are going to try to tell us that President Bush couldn't have possibly forseen the disaster, and that we need to forgive the Republicans because they're still the only chance we've got. But I'm not going to be buying it--and you'll be a fool if you do.

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