Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, October 24, 2005

George Will

George Will is an excellent writer and he has a great example of his writing up now: Defending the Indefensible, about Harriet Miers' nomination. It's a very good article and well worth the read. But consider this passage:

In their unseemly eagerness to assure Miers's conservative detractors that she will reach the "right" results, her advocates betray complete incomprehension of this: Thoughtful conservatives' highest aim is not to achieve this or that particular outcome concerning this or that controversy. Rather, their aim for the Supreme Court is to replace semi-legislative reasoning with genuine constitutional reasoning about the Constitution's meaning as derived from close consideration of its text and structure. Such conservatives understand that how you get to a result is as important as the result. Indeed, in an important sense, the path that the Supreme Court takes to the result often is the result.
Guess what, George? That sort of conservatism is dead! Nobody cares what "thoughtful" conservatives think anymore. People like Will and Andrew Sullivan lament how the Bush administration has become a big government administration, pandering to the religious right and kowtowing to corporate America while installing cronies at various government positions. But when you realize that, the Miers nomination is not only defensible, it is logical.

There is a rift within the Republican party between the "thoughtful conservatives" and the "social conservatives", but here's why the rift doesn't matter: the "thoughtful conservatives" will vote Republican even if their candidate is a Bible-thumping, big government one. They voted for Bush, they will vote for Frist or whoever. Why? They have this undying faith that the Republican party will change, and that in any case, they say, the Republican candidate is better than the Democratic one. Meanwhile, the social conservatives will simply not vote unless they think their vote can end abortion or put prayer in schools, or whatever the issue of the day is. The Republicans in power can no longer afford to ignore the social conservatives; however, they can completely ignore the "thoughtful conservatives", and will continue to do so, as most of these so-called "thoughtful conservatives" are just sheep.

So Mr. Will: please stop complaining that the Miers nomination makes no sense. Instead, it's time to accept the fact that this is the way the GOP works now. And if you don't like it, it's time to reconsider party allegiances.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Thoughtful conservatives" have always been engaged in doublespeak. They put a veneer of ideas on policies that are little more than pandering to the core conservative constituencies. At heart, most "thoughtful" conservative arguments boil down to this: they employ sophistry to convince the well-to-do that the best thing they can do for the poor is not give them any money.  

// posted by LTG

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG has hit the nail on the head. While political thinkers may engage in a thoughtful debate between conservative and liberal philosophies, the more important distinction is between idealism and opportunism.

Whether liberal or conservative, opportunists care only about getting specific results--usually securing money, power, and privilege for themselves or their constituents. Opportunist politicians will tell any lie, try any ploy, and do anything they can get away with to achieve their goals. And because those who play dirty are so single-mindedly determined to get what they want, they usually do.

Idealists believe that the purpose of engaging in public discourse and inquiry is to discover the truth, not to win the argument. Idealists believe that the process matters as much, if not more than, the results. And there are idealists on both sides of the aisle.

We all know that LTG is right and that their so-called "thougtful conservative" philosophy is just an excuse to loot the treasury and line the pockets of their cronies. We all know that the flag-waving patriotic shtick of the Bush administration is crap. The opportunists, led by Bush, have completely taken over the Republican party. (I have some hope that the Democrats may fare better. But not a whole lot.)

As Bell Curve says, the Miers nomination shows just how far the Bush administration has gone into the opportunist camp. Conservative idealism may not be dead, but it's irrelevant. George Will is right when he says that those who put forth the Miers nomination are merely "masquerading" as the defenders of conservative ideals.

But I smell a rat in Mr. Will's supiciously timely conversion. Bush's behavior in nominating Miers is not a departure but rather fully consistent with his style of misleadership. Just ask Bush. No, I think George F. Will is showing his true colors: he's an opportunist like the rest of them.

He wanted the next nominee to be a rank-and-file conservative from the federalist society... and when Ms. Miers got nominated instead, he is finally playing the "thoughtful conservative" card to argue why Bush should pick someone else. Too little, too late, Mr. Will. You should have figured this out during the first four years, if you actually meant it.

Elections have consequences.

Anonymous said...

I would count my Dad as one of Will's "thoughtful conservatives." But he suspends so much of his thoughtfulness when it comes to the religious right that its rediculous. He still thinks of them as a harmless bunch of fringe cranks even though they dominate the party leadership even in more urban, secular states like Ohio (where he lives). For example, he was shocked to hear about moves to insert creationism and "intelligent design" into science classes in Ohio and flat out said he didn't believe me when I told him. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

There are two things that merit some attention here. The first is a comment by George Will and the second is a comment made by Bell Curve.

Will refers to the notion that "thoughtful conservatives" are "wanting to replace semi-legislative reasoning with Constitutional reasoning about the Constitution's meaning as derived from close consideration of its text and structure. " That sentence makes no sense because of semantics.

The Constitution's meaning does not come from its structure as I understand that word to mean. It comes from what it says and doesn't say. It isn't a document for text analysis or literary criticism where you can discuss its metaphors or analogies. It is a map of governance set to the tune of certain principles and values. (See Federalist #78) And neither Will or his other "thoughtful Conservative" understand the meaning of the word "legislate". To legislate is to make or enact laws, a power that the Court does not have. They Court can only judge in those cases that come before it, which is why unconstitutional laws can be in effect for years before being decommissioned. The bigger danger is the politicization of the bench by the executive and legislative branches. Hamilton: "And it proves, in the last place, that as liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone, but would have every thing to fear from its union with either of the other departments . . . it is in continual jeopardy of being overpowered, awed, or influenced by its co-ordinate branches; and that as nothing can contribute so much to its firmness and independence as permanency in office, this quality may therefore be justly regarded as an indispensable ingredient in its constitution, and, in a great measure, as the citadel of the public justice and the public security."

But when a Court judges, it is governing. It is the keeper of the principles upon which our social contract is built. Using the Court to overturn R v.W is just as legislative in nature as the Court's original decision. What is more important is the reasoning and what that reasoning guarantees us . . . a right to privacy, a limitation on government intervention in private lives, something conservatives, or at least libertarians should support. Conservatives don't want an aloof government, they want to shrink government down small enough to fit into your bedroom. If they were at all "thoughtful" they would see this inherent contradiction in their skewed logic.

Bell curve makes a statment that is interesting. Bell Curve says, "They [thoughtful conservatives] have this undying faith that the Republican party will change". They are right to have that faith because the Republican Party has changed. The question is, will it change back to what it was? No. It will by nature be different for having made the journey in the first place. I think that Bell Curve is implying just that.

If you look at how the parties have developed over time, you will see that they have bounced back and forth on issues and basic philosophies- what is the role of a federal government, states rights, individual freedoms. None of this is new. A lot of this change in the political parties is-dare I use the phrase- Natural evolution, the ebb and flow of time. These parties change largely in reaction to each other and the political exigences of the time. So this whole idea of what conservatism is or was ends up being largely unimportant. The bigger question is what do they want it to be and how do they get there? What effect will that have on other parties. Do they want to go on being the Jesus freak party or are they hoping to take a more balanced approach?

The problem with all of this is that we live in very reactionary times where parties are realigning themselves in response to the new political climate (and yes, I am making a global warming pun there). And the more reactionary one side gets, the more extreme the other. So long as this type of vicious cycle continues, there is little hope either party will return to the happy middle. That is why RBR gets worried about having a reactionary left take over the Democratic party. And I am saying that this will happen; it must happen before everyone realizes that they have to return to a more reasonable way of operating.  

// posted by USWest

Anonymous said...

Well crafted comment US West! And you're right about why I'm worried about the far left of the Democratic party more than I usually am. I'm more optimistic than you are because I think our electoral system has inherent biases built into it that favor the center. That's why the most rabid wierdos on both the left and right are in the House not the Senate (Senators have bigger districts where the centrist bias is stronger).

I was inspired to revisit the Federalist Papers (see link to the right) and found this quotation from #78: "The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution. By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex-post-facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing."

The right, especially the religious right, are fond of saying that the Founding Fathers never intended even the concept of judicial review. Indeed, much of the standard history presented in American high school civics is that the Judiciary more or less assumed this authority on its own initiative. However this quotation by Hamilton shows clearly that judicial review was not only expected but hoped for. A little off the topic of thoughtful conservatives and George Will but I think it's interesting. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

There is a marvellous confluence between schools of biblical and constitutional interpretation that bears up even under considerable reflection. The right urges a literal reading, the center and left interpret in light of "tradition, reason, and experience." These views represent a continuum of religious and intellectual traditions that are intertwined. I would argue that the freemen and such take a radical "protestant" approach to the law. They simply interpret the law for themselves, with no mediation whatsoever. Most of the time, I think such analogies can be taken too far, but in the American political context, I think it's actually extremely enlightening.  

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

Interesting take LTG. How would you relate their radical approach to self guided interpretation with their simultaneous insistence on literalism with regard to both the bible and the Constitution? I mean on the one hand their approach seems to favor the idea that everyone is free to make their own interpretation. But on the other they seem to insist that their interpretation is irrefutable and even incontestable. Ellaborating on your earlier comment, LTG, could you discuss this seeming contradition? I'm curious about what you think. 

// posted by Raised By Republicans

Anonymous said...

I mean on the one hand their approach seems to favor the idea that everyone is free to make their own interpretation. 

They have a way that they believe is the "correct" and "literal" way of interpreting both documents, when in reality, it is just that, an interpretation. I don't understand your comment, I don't think, but is this what you are driving at? 

// posted by Bell Curve

Anonymous said...

RBR You're confusing personal interpretation with relativism. The belief is that there is no authority to whom one must defer in interpreting (bible or the constitution). And once you read it "the right way" by yourself, you are 100% right, and everyone else is a blasphemer and heretic. The idea that "everyone can intepret it for themselves" means that "everyone's interpretation is equally valid" is not in the fundamentalist logic book. 

// posted by LTG

Anonymous said...

This idea of literalism vs. interpretation at the core of the rhetorics of conservative vs. liberal legal thought AND fundamentalist vs. "reformatory" religious thought is brilliant. (I'm not sure all non-fundamentalist non-atheists would be keen on being called reformatory, but I felt I needed to come up with something.)

I'm tempted to go on about the later idea of distinguishing "I have interpreted this myself, and found the TRUTH" and "Your interpretation is just as good as mine", and how the interpretation vs. literal rhetoric are different dogmas of what the route to revelatory truth is, and how the epiphany of revelation doesn't imply truth anyway, and how accepting that is true rationalism, and the true rationalists aren't on the side of the literalists. But I realize now that that's pretty philosophical, I wouldn't really be able to add much to the incoherent summary I just gave, and insofar as I could articulate any useful thoughts, they'd be the sort of thing you'd probably agree with anyway.

Uh, so my point is, LTG, this literalism vs. interpretation thing, that is really cool. 

// posted by Bob

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