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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Abortion and Senate Filibusters

David Brooks writes in The New York Times about how the Roe v. Wade descision has changed politics, particularly on confirmation battles.:

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. Unable to lobby for their pro-life or pro-choice views in normal ways, abortion activists focused their attention on judicial nominations. Dozens of groups on the right and left have been created to destroy nominees who might oppose their side of the fight. But abortion is never the explicit subject of these confirmation battles. Instead, the groups try to find some other pretext to destroy their foes. Each nomination battle is more vicious than the last as the methodologies of personal destruction are perfected. You get a tit-for-tat escalation as each side points to the other's outrages to justify its own methods.
The whole thing is very interesting, read it all. I am not so sure about his claim that "Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American," but I certainly see where he is coming from. In an ideal world, it wouldn't make any difference whether a Judge was liberal or conservative. Judges would interpret the laws written by the legislature and the Constitution and rule on the facts of the case. These things should be logically determinable and not subject to emotion and personal beliefs. Obviously we are all human, even Judges, and that ideal will never be perfectly realized. However, I think if the scope of the courts is properly defined, and allegiance to what the Constitution actually says, rather than what we wish it said, was practiced more fully we could get a lot closer to this ideal. I doubt we will be able to return to those days, and perhaps things were just as fractious before Roe v. Wade and time has merely dimmed our memories of the controversies of the past.


Blogger honestpartisan said...

I've expressed before my skepticism about Roe v. Wade as sound constitutional law and that I think the decision was damaging for Democrats, for reasons that Brooks states. (I'm pro-choice, just don't think the constitution addresses the issue).

I wonder about the use of "liberal" to describe the decision, and Harry Blackmun's angle in particular. (Although I concede that the decision has become a touchstone for liberals in general). As a recent New York Times magazine article pointed out, Blackmun was a former counsel for the Mayo Clinic (and a Republican, appointed by Nixon) and he was fascinated by the interests of health care professionals. He saw the decision to have an abortion not so much in the prism of women's rights, but as an extension of the "right to privacy", in which doctors should feel secure in making decisions on behalf of their patients. That's part of the reason there's the strangely detailed trimester analysis in a constitutional decision.

4/22/2005 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I am certainly not up on early 70s political discourse, but I think you are right in that Roe v. Wade has come to largely define Liberal and Conservative positions, but wasn't particularly a result of that distinction.

Blackburn wasn't necessarily a liberal, but he was, I think, an activist judge.

4/22/2005 09:02:00 AM  

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