Friday, April 22, 2005

 

Post of the month: Bobo's deliberately cloudy memory

This is brilliant.
You know, David Brooks had me going there for a second. He almost had me thinking, "For once the little twerp is right":

Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe v. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it....

Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists....


Hmmm, I thought. Maybe that's right -- maybe Roe is the reason our political life is so nasty and partisan.

Then I remembered:

The civil rights era. Vietnam. The bombing of Cambodia. Attacks on anti-war activists by "hard hats." Bumper stickers about "Hanoi Jane." The dirty tricks of the '72 Nixon campaign. The rhetoric of Spiro Agnew. The rhetoric of Attorney General John Mitchell. The plot to blow up the Brookings Institution, and all the other plots.

The Equal Rights Amendment, and Phyllis Schlafly's dark warnings about unisex toilets. Busing in Boston. Proposition 13. The battle over the Panama Canal treaty. The 1980 Reagan campaign. The 1980 campaign that targeted enough Democratic senators to turn the Senate Republican. The mining of harbors in Nicaragua. The rape of nuns in El Salvador. James Watt. Ed Meese. Jeane Kirkpatrick. Ollie North. Ads with the chant "Liberal, liberal, liberal."

"Read my lips -- no new taxes." The rumor that Kitty Dukakis once burned an American flag. Bush the Elder touring flag factories during the '88 campaign, while attacking the ACLU. The Willie Horton ad. The rise of Rush Limbaugh. The Morton Downey Jr. Show. The comedy of Andrew "Dice" Clay. The books of William Bennett. The Bell Curve. The Real Anita Hill. "My dog, Millie, knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos."

The attack on "Hillarycare." The attack on gays in the military. Travelgate. Filegate. Whitewater. Fellow members of Congress taunting Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky on the floor of the House as she cast the deciding vote in favor of Clinton's budget. Lani Guinier as "quota queen." The targeting of Jim Wright. The Contract with America. The government shutdown. The Arkansas Project. The "Clinton Body Count." Linda Tripp. Lucianne Goldberg. The Mena airport rumors. The mulatto child rumors. Gary Aldrich. Ann Coulter. Barbara Olson.

I'm not even up to Clinton's impeachment, much less the present century -- Rush Limbaugh comparing Tom Daschle to Satan, Max Cleland being linked to Osama bin Laden, John McCain being accused of emotional instability and disloyalty to his country and fathering a mulatto bastard who's actually an adopted child from Bangladesh. And on and on and on.

No, David, Roe v. Wade isn't why our politics is coarsened and polarized. Our politics is coarsened and polarized because conservatives want vengeance -- for the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Great Society, civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, consumerism, and every other liberal change of the twentieth century. And they're not too thrilled about more recent developments, either -- overturning Roe isn't going to make them mellow out about gay marriage or embryonic stem-cell research or self-administered emergency contraception or laws that permit the removal of feeding tubes for patients in permanent vegetative states.

Maybe you just focus on abortion because it's the rare issue on which liberals and Democrats fight back.
I read Bobo's column in the Times and wanted to grab him by his lapels and shake him until his tiny little brain popped back in place. I wanted to point out that he cribbed his thesis from George Will (sorry, no reference, it's from a long time ago; and besides, who knows who Will stole it from). I wanted to point out that we are one country, not 50, and that rights should not depend on where you happen to live. I wanted to point out that the anti-abortionists are also pretty much theocrats who want to impose their views in a lot of other areas, too. But Steve's post is much better than anything I could write (surprise surprise).

Isn't it interesting, though, that conservatives don't give a damn for their incredible nastiness during the 90s, but are oh-so-appalled when liberals try to fight back now? Goodness gracious, we're just so mean to them, aren't we? How dare we even think of giving as good as we got?

In conservatives' minds, as I've said before, we are and are always supposed to be the Washington Generals. We're just supposed to show up and pretend to try to win, knowing that we never will, so everyone can make believe it's a real game and not a practice or exhibition.

Well, we never agreed to that, even if sometimes we made the wingnuts think we did. We've had enough, and we're fighting back (and not just on freedom of choice). Iif the right wing doesn't like it - TDB.

UPDATE. Digby just about finishes off Bobo.
Harry Started It

David Brooks says that if it weren't for Roe vs Wade we wouldn't be having all this nastiness in our political discourse. And the fight over the judiciary -- my gawd -- nobody would even think of it:
Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe vs. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter -viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it.

Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists.
I think he's right. In fact, all those right wingers who agitated for the impeachment (and worse) of Earl Warren in the 1960's were not actually upset about Brown vs board of education or Griswald vs Connecticut or any of the other decisions that we thought had set the wingnuts aflame during the era. It was because they were anticipating that the Supreme Court was going to find a right to abortion in 1973.

Here's how The Eagle Forum so cleverly covers their tracks:
The Warren Court (1953-1969) fueled the Culture War into an inferno and then placed the federal judiciary squarely in the white-hot center of the conflagration. "Impeach Earl Warren" signs exploded like rockets across the nation as Americans began to realize what was happening. But the courts and the Constitution have remained at the center of our culture conflict, and much of the Warren Court's legacy remains in tact.
Clearly, they refuse to admit that until Roe vs Wade in 1973 the right had no issues with the courts. Indeed, everyone got along just great. They bore no ill will for the court that found "separate but equal" to be unconstitutional. Oh no, it wasn't until poor Harry Blackmun found that a woman had a right to the privacy of her own body that the right decided that the "robed elitists" had usurped their democratic rights. All that impeachment talk before then was just good clean fun.

Thus, the culture war is all about abortion and not, as some have erroneously assumed, a half century of struggle over fundamental issues of social justice, tolerance, individual rights and modernity in general. This whole thing is a simple disagreement between upstanding conservatives saving cute little babies from black robed elitists and lazy liberals refusing to admit that equal rights under the law is a matter for legislative negotiation with Rick Santorum.

That Brooks, he's a keen social observer and historical analyst. He figured this out, I'm sure, over a Bud light and a plate of popcorn shrimp down at Coco's.
If this were a prizefight (or, considering the relative strengths of the fighters, more likely the Golden Gloves), the referee would stop it just about…now.
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