The dark beast of American politics

I was particularly struck by this passage in Cal Thomas’ column on today’s op-ed page:

If Harriet Miers is “pro-life” and if she believes, as has been reported, that aborting a pre-born child is the taking of an innocent human life, why should she not be expected to favor overturning Roe v. Wade if the opportunity presents itself? Not to do so would be hypocritical.

I’ve got to disagree with Mr. Thomas’ rather narrow view on this matter. If she is confirmed, she should not help overturn Roe v. Wade because she has personal, religious objections to abortion.

No, she should help overturn Roe v. Wade because it was a bad decision, based upon faulty reasoning. Moreover, I would like to see the court overturn it because it has perverted not only the constitutional processes created by the Framers for selecting judges, but it has distorted our entire political world to a painfully destructive degree.

The ruling was based upon the fanciful creation, in the earlier Griswold v. Connecticut, of a right to privacy. It seems there was this penumbra — a shadow that had been lurking in the Constitution for almost two centuries without anyone noticing it. And yet this half-shadow was so sharply defined, it turns out, that it overrode whatever the political will of the people of the various states might be with regard to first birth control, then abortion.

Since then, the shadow has extended — like the darkness coming out of Mordor to overcome Tolkien’s Middle Earth — to cover every aspect of our politics today. It’s not just THE subtext of practically every question asked of judicial nominees, it’s THE unresolved conflict in the nation’s political subconscious.

Just as confirmation hearings have become all about abortion, presidential campaigns have become — among the bitterest partisans — mostly about abortion. That one issue, the emotional center of which underlies so many others (assisted suicide, stem cells, removal of feeding tubes, etc.), has become perhaps the chief determinant of whether people identify themselves as Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative. You can be for the war in Iraq (or against it) whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, but it’s awfully hard, if not impossible, to get nominated if you’re not on your party’s side on abortion.

And which side they have chosen determines whether they think Roe v. Wade should be overturned or not. But you know, you would think both sides would want to see it gone. The partisans are spoiling for a fight, so why not have a real fight, according to the rules of American politics? This is about the deepest values each of us hold, and as citizens we should be allowed to decide the issue’s outcome by electing lawmakers who reflect our values — lawmakers who are not prohibited by the courts from making this most political of decisions.

And then we can go back to choosing justices based upon their knowledge of and faithfulness to the law, rather than playing these bitter guessing games, doing anything and everything we can to try to divine how they will rule on this one thing.

I know the partisans aren’t sick of the current state of affairs the way I am, but I don’t see why they’re not. From where I sit, it appears that this issue is eating them away, from the inside out. And it’s doing the same thing to the country.

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