The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The judiciary ultras still a dozen or two divisions short of a coup d'├ętat

The meeting of proto-revolutionaries I mentioned on March 10 was written up at the Nation.

Nice lede:
Michael Schwartz must have thought I was just another attendee of the "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference. I approached the chief of staff of Oklahoma's GOP Senator Tom Coburn outside the conference in downtown Washington last Thursday afternoon after he spoke there. Before I could introduce myself, he turned to me and another observer with a crooked smile and exclaimed, "I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist. I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!"

[Feel free to insert a Jeff Gannon joke here...]

It may be that
As Gary Cass, the director of Rev. D. James Kennedy's lobbying front, the Center for Reclaiming America, explained, they are arousing the anger of their base in order to harness it politically.

Their problem is, how?

The homo-marriage amendments (the Federal version and, more importantly, those on offer as initiatives in various states) operated to increase Bush's vote. Mission accomplished.

What is the excited base supposed to do this time? Impeachment and constitutional amendments require two-thirds majorities in the Senate: those are clearly out, given that Bill Frist is having trouble coming up with 50 GOP senators to support his nuclear option.

Are they supposed to be satisfied with expressions of indignation and remain tumescent until November 2006? Excitement can hardly be a viable end in itself. Can it?

The counter-argument is, It's worked for twenty years: why shouldn't it carry on working? Perhaps the base recognises that bans on abortion and recriminalising sodomy are not going to happen; they just want the warm glow they get (I'm supposing...) when they hear the President say he feels their pain.

(Red Sox fans went 80 years in forlorn hope, with a Green Monster-size chip on their collective shoulder. And look how that turned out...)

The constititutional barriers are an immovable object; the right-wing fanatics have proved so far a highly resistible force. Any reason why that should have changed?

The alternative is some kind of res nova: a coup of some kind, replacing or subverting the existing constitution to suit the fundies' requirements. Yet - just to write it is to dismiss it.

The last successful coup in a First World state was in France in 1958. It was born of the wholly exceptional subvertion of the French state by the Algerian War, and was possible only because of the exhaustion of the prevailing regime, the previous assumption by the Army of a political role, the availability of de Gaulle and his monumental deception of the pieds noirs who were causing the difficulty.

These elements have no parallels in the present-day US.

One might say that, with the nuclear option, Bush is proposing a soft coup. But, even if it works, the changes that might result do not remotely answer to the apocalyptic demands of the judge-impalers.

There is a legal Latin tag (which escapes me for the moment) which says (roughly), For every wrong, a remedy - a tag usually cited for being false, I suspect.

It's also false in politics. Merely because there is a large body of support for a policy doesn't necessarily make it more likely that policy will come into effect.

Thus, the millions who marched against the Iraq invasion round the world got nothing for their pains. The death penalty in the UK is still abolished. Federal antilynching legislation in the US got nowhere for decades.

The alternative outcome of the frustration of this pent-up demand for a judicial clean-sweep would be a mass abstention in November 2006 (or the running of a religious-right candidate, which amounts to the same thing). Which hands both houses of Congress back to the spawn of Beelzebub, ie, the Democrats [1].

They've got nowhere to go. (That wouldn't stop them abstaining in a throw the toys out of the pram tantrum; or a piece of deliberate self-harm designed as proof of intent. But that leaves the substantive - constitutional and political - problems untouched.)

They can no more have an anti-abortion judiciary than a pro-slavery one. And that's that.

(They could conceivably have anti-affirmative action judges - most Western democracies do! But somehow race doesn't get the right's juices flowing like the 'life' issues.)

  1. I'd like to see the stats: perhaps, the numbers of the religious rights are both too small and too concentrated in red districts to make the difference. You need to look district by district, I'm thinking.

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