Thursday, October 06, 2005

Mired in Miers

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.


  1. (1) cf. why we like John Frame.

    (2) cf. Pat Buchanan's melt-down over this recommended appointment. The strange thing is that I connected the same dots here that you did, Hays, but ah was a'feerd a' bein' cawl'd a "antee-Cath-o-lic".

    Points for the Hays-meister.

  2. I think the Evangelicals are happy because she will probably the first Evangelical on the S.Court in recent memory.

    The Catholics/Jews are focusing more on her qualifications, which don't seem all that impressive (although I don't know much about them in particular).

    Wasn't this woman raised a Catholic?

  3. Interesting...I seem to fall rather outside of your definitions, as a solidly Evangelical Christian staunchly in the libertarian camp.

    I can see your points, but I honestly think you give the evangelical community too much credit. Rather I call it blind trust. "If she's good enough for Bush, she's good enough for me. She's a nice girl and goes to church".

    I agree that elitism is not the way to go, but it's generally good to at least be qualified. This doesn't mean graduating from Harvard, it means having some knowledge of her ideology.

    Is she a strict constitutionalist? Does she believe that Judges can/should make law? Does she understand and appreciate lex rex? These are the important questions, and I want more than an empty promise that she has a solid ideology before giving her the power and influence that supreme court justice has.

    I frankly don't care if she's evangelical. This isn't a good-ol-boy club, it's an important and long term position with far reaching consequences.

    Sorry...I just can't support her. For much the same reason that I couldn't support Roberts. All sorts of people are handing out assurance that he's not going to be another Souter...but I'm just not willing to trust in man so quickly.

    I do find your analysis interesting. I have been asking myself what in the world actually motivated the slavering lackeys of the Bush administration to suddenly buck the party line. In times past it wouldn't have surprised me, but over the last few years the mindlessness groupthink of the right in general has been disturbing. I assumed he just finally threw that final straw out there and they couldn't take it anymore.

    Your observations there are definitely worth some consideration.

  4. I am evangelical too and I am also skeptical of her nomination - chiefly because she is an unknown entity and...

    (1) there is no shortage of candidates with solidly conservative judicial credentials, (2) there is a Republican majority in the Senate, (3) Ruth Bader Ginsburg and most recently John Roberts have demonstrated that equivocation on wedge issues like abortion can deflect potentially damaging rhetoric, and (4) the Democrats have paid the price for perceptions of judicial obstructionism (eg. Daschle) – IOW, if they want a fight, let's give it to them.

    In light of these observations - why take any chances with something so important by nominating someone about whom we know so little?

    Because she is Bush's personal friend?!

    Thankfully, the Senate is given the prerogative of advise and consent in such situations.

    And fyi, she is not a member of (at least what I would consider to be) an evangelical denomination - she belongs to a Restoration movement church (Church of Christ/Independent Christian) - and that doesn't provide me with comfort since they are often so shallow doctrinally.

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