Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers has exposed a rift in conservative ranks. This may come as a pleasant surprise to liberals, who regard all right-wingers as bomb-throwing theocrats, but it comes as no surprise to conservatives. The GOP is more ideologically diverse than the DNC.
I don’t have the stats on this, but to judge by conventional wisdom, the GOP has a centripetal structure. At its solar core is the religious right. Circling the core are a number of secular conservative satellites, consisting of hawks, businessmen, and libertarians.
Of course, the religious right is, itself, a subdivided coalition of conservative Catholics, Evangelicals, and observant Jews.
Now, the satellites go along with the religious right for couple of reasons:
i) They don’t have the numbers to swing it on their own. So they need to tag on to the stream engine of the religious right.
ii) Although they don’t agree with every plank of the religious right’s agenda, the religious right generally agrees with every plank of their own platform. That is to say, members of the religious right are generally hawkish, pro-business, and anti-big brother.
Now, from what I can tell, most of the conservative punditry has, with a few exceptions, been hostile to the Miers nominations—and the exceptions are just as revealing as the rule.
On the one hand, she enjoys the support of Colson, Dobson, Land, Olasky, and Sekulow. Cal Thomas is on the fence.
On the other hand, her opposition number such names as Blankley, Buchanan, Coulter, Frum, Jeffrey, Krauthammer, Kristol, Lowry, Malkin, Novak, Noonan, Sabato, Shapiro, and Will.
It’s not hard to see a pattern here. Evangelicals support her, or at least they don’t oppose her, while her opposition comes from Jews, Catholics, and other non-evangelicals.
BTW, I don’t know where Medved or Brooks come down, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they oppose her as well.
Now, there are various reasons to entertain reservations about her nomination. She’s an unknown quantity. Her paper trail is thin, and what paper trail she has sends mixed signals.
But that doesn’t account for the breakdown. What does account for the breakdown is a different value system.
On the one hand, Bible-belt types are generally disdainful of elitism. They’re not social climbers. Their world revolves around church and family, work and sports. “Hewers of wood and drawers of water” (Josh 9:21ff.).
Bush, despite his preppie background, is a perfect illustration of this outlook. And so, on the face of it, is Miss Miers. She’s from Texas. She’s a god-fearing, churchgoing woman. She’s a card-carrying member of the Bible-belt.
This goes to a deep string of Americana. We threw off the crown. This is what makes The Beverly Hillbillies and the Dukes of Hazzard hit shows. They’re deliberately lowbrow. They revel in Hickdom.
This is as old as Reynard the Fox. This is why Bush won and Kerry lost. The bourgeoisie v. the booboisie.
Yes, it was about ideology. But it was deeper than ideology. It was about what gives rise to ideology in the first place.
By contrast, non-evangelical conservatives are generally more status-conscious, hotly pursuing the medals and medallions of social prestige. Catholicism and Rabbinical Judaism are spiritual meritocracies. By contrast, Evangelicalism is all about the sin of man and grace of God.
In nominating Miers, Bush unwittingly split the core of his constituency as well as driving the satellites into outer orbit.
She’s an embarrassment—like Carrie on prom night. They can’t stand the idea of having this gauche and gawky little girl from Dogpatch USA as their judicial Homecoming Queen. It’s more enough to put up with Dubya as their Homecoming King. They are royalists at heart. Image is everything.
In addition, what distinctively endears her to the Evangelical wing of the GOP is what renders her distinctively repellent to the rest of the GOP.
That’s how she’s perceived, and perceptions are all we have to go by at the moment.
I'm not commenting, now, on whether she’s a good pick or a bad pick. I’m just commenting on how the angular light of her nomination has revealed the seams in the GOP.