Thursday, April 23, 2009
Sunday morning, while waiting for President Obama's press conference from Trinidad and Tobago, some CNN talking heads were killing time. Discussing some sort of viewer survey, in which they were asked (I didn't get the exact phrasing) what things could be eliminated to improve the (something or other), they mentioned a couple of received responses. Among them was the suggestion to get rid of West Point. Weird. But beside the point.
Then the anchors themselves chimed in. Gloria Borger suggested something I've thought for years: stop state legislatures from designing congressional districts; make it strictly geographically based, which would go a long way to restoring fairness in elections, ramping down the rampant hyperpartisanship that comes from gerrymandering. A serious idea.
Next, Stephen Hayes, neocon paragon, pre-invasion promoter of a phantom link between Saddam Hussein and al-Queda, suggested getting rid of the ACLU. Of all the troubling things on the political horizon, that's at the top of his list!! Add that to the bafflements beyond which I have a hard time getting. Why are conservatives, among whose raisons d'etre are distrust of government and resistance to overreach thereof, so reflexively and congenitally, insanely dismissive of the ACLU? What beef do they have with an organization dedicated to ensuring that the federal and state governments follow the laws of the land: protecting, in other words, our most defining civil rights?
It's only because reasonableness is a liberal characteristic that the ACLU is seen by some as a strictly left-wing outfit. Standing for civil rights, in the broadest sense of the term, is what they do. Why is that repugnant to conservatives? What it is about the bill of rights that they find so unappealing (second amendment excepted, of course)?
It was the ACLU that supported the right of Ne0-Nazis to march in Skokie Illinois, an act of high principle, in my view, which cost it thousands of Jewish members. It was the ACLU that helped Rush Limbaugh in his attempt to keep private his medical records. Protecting civil rights, demanding enforcement of the Constitution is, in other words, a non-partisan prospect in the eyes of the ACLU; and of course they're right. So why do conservatives have a problem with it? It makes no sense.
Well, yes it does: it's like "activist judges" and "patriotism," terms that are more mutable than one might predict if one were to believe in, oh, meaning. The truth is that such things as the rule of law and respect for the Constitution are, to many on the right, to be supported only insofar as they comport fully with one's personal views. If a judge rules as they wish, it's "strict constructionism." If against, it's unwarranted "activism." If someone -- the ACLU, for instance -- raises alarms when the law isn't followed, it's dangerous: assuming, of course, that the law-breaking in question was the preferred outcome of the conservative aggrieved.
After all, the ACLU are merely advocates. They're neither judge nor jury. What's wrong with consistent voice demanding that the rules be followed? To whom is such a voice a threat? Isn't it a non-partisan idea that some people have a tendency to ignore the law when it suits them? Isn't the rule of law a central tenet of America? Wherein lies the danger? The ACLU sticks its neck out far, in both directions. Why is it conservatives, of all people, who want to disappear an organization dedicated to the Bill of Rights? I just don't get it.
But, obviously, there's a lot I don't get about the current iteration of the right wing.
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