Thursday, October 06, 2005

Why Are Conservatives Unhappy About Miers?

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a lot of division (and perhaps confusion) in the conservative community over the President’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

While some conservatives have stood staunchly by the President on this choice, far more are not excited about it, but are willing to see it through. Still others are quite upset about the whole thing. I’ve tried to show some of the various schools of thought in my previous posts here and here.

Famed author (and former Reagan speech writer) Peggy Noonan is among the group that is not happy. Her article here is representative of the feelings of many conservatives, where she openly calls the Miers nomination a mistake. She includes a long list of “maybes” that describe conservative disillusionment with the President that I sense (from a wide variety of blogs, articles, and radio shows) is somewhat prevalent among strong conservatives that consider themselves Bush’s base. She conjectures that maybe the President:
  • Doesn’t care about his base since he’s not standing for any future election.

  • Is showing his base who’s really boss.

  • Thinks his base will stick by him no matter what.

  • “Has decided the era of hoping for small government is over.”

  • “Sees the right not as a thing he is of but a thing he must appease, defy, please or manipulate.”

  • “After five years … is fully revealing himself.”
Noonan makes a point of why all of this is important. “Whatever the answer, history is being revealed here by the administration every day, and it's big history, not small.”

When it comes down to the Miers nomination, Noonan seems mostly upset that Miers is such an unknown quantity. She feels this is a bad thing that will further mystify the great, almighty, Supreme Court. She postulates that many big-time law types hide their personal philosophies, not only from others, but also from themselves. Then they reveal those hidden philosophies to the world and to themselves as they rule from the bench (as judges or justices). Thus, as the court (and the whole judiciary) becomes more powerful it also becomes more mysterious.

Noonan says, “We have a two part problem. The first is that no one knows what [justices] think until they’re there. The other is that they're there forever.” She then calls for a constitutional amendment limiting the terms of justices, (which may not be a bad idea). Her reasoning: “Why not? We'd amend it to ban flag-burning, even though a fool burning a flag can't possibly harm our country. But a Kelo decision and a court unrebuked for it can really tear the fabric of a nation.”

While relatively conservative myself, I feel that many conservatives have set too high a standard for President Bush. Because he’s a practicing Evangelical Christian, they expect him to be one of them. Though Bush is a man of faith, I have never been so easily persuaded that he is a staunch conservative. He certainly has never acted fiscally conservative either as Governor of Texas or as President. Despite his folksy and endearing demeanor, he is a shrewd politician that does well the things that successful politicians do – many of which aren’t terribly endearing to regular folks.

Also, I think conservatives, especially religious ones, sometimes think they are the only ones that voted for Bush or that vote Republican. Perhaps we conservatives need to open our eyes and realize that the Republican Party is a big party filled with people of many different stripes. I don’t think conservatives intend to be arrogant, but since many of us are quite strong in our views, we sometimes tend to think our way of thinking is the only “right” way of thinking. (note double meaning)

Many of the disillusioned conservatives seem to be going through phase 3 of a committed relationship with Bush. They’ve been through the honeymoon and have been upset by the power struggle. Maybe after disillusionment they will reach phase 4, where they learn to accept the man, warts and all. Maybe they will realize that the President can’t realistically toe the line they set for him all of the time or even most of the time.

Then again, maybe they will turn on him and his party and either not vote or support fringe candidates. Either would be bad for the Republicans in 2006. Maybe it would be a wake-up call. But for whom?

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