Speaking of the World’s Most Infamous Creed Apologist

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Mark of New Jersey

Mark is a Founding Editor of The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, the predecessor of Ordinary Times.

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61 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I see the Tea Party Voters as more of a Perot Voters Without Perot party.

    The fact that social issues aren’t front/center is a throwback to Perot’s run. Sure, most of the folks are, in fact, socially conservative… but it’s one thing to be socially conservative, it’s quite another to want politicians who talk about social conservative issues and pass socially conservative legislation.

    Because, ironically, socially conservative legislation is not socially conservative.Report

    • @Jaybird, I think that’s probably about half right. At this point, it’s just too clear that a majority of the movement is the same characters who’ve been calling themselves movement conservatives for years.Report

    • Avatar dexter45 says:

      @Jaybird, Could you please elaborate on that last sentence /Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        @dexter45, I’m thinking about things like laws that intrude into the bedroom (the stuff uncovered by Lawrence v. Texas), the laws that intrude into the doctor’s office (many of the “remedies” to Roe v. Wade), and the War on Drugs laws being enforced also are very much throwbacks to the progressive laws that were being enforced during the era of prohibition.

        Outsourcing of social responsibility to government is not, absolutely not, socially conservative.Report

        • Avatar gregiank says:

          @Jaybird, So things that SoCon’s push for and have believed in for decades are not actually Socially Conservative. ahhh yeah.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            @gregiank, I’ve said before (want a link) that modern social conservatives aren’t social conservatives but turn-of-the-century progressives with a slightly different agenda.

            They believe in a vigorous, interventionist foreign policy, they believe that the government ought to be involved in the preservation of virtue and the prevention of vice, and they think that the eschaton can be immanentized.

            These are not socially conservative positions.

            Even if they are “decades” old.

            Decades.

            When I was a kid, “conservative” meant more than “decades”.Report

            • Avatar Rufus F. says:

              @Jaybird, I’m finding your theory pretty interesting. Did you write a guest post about this? If not, it might make a good one.Report

            • Avatar greginak says:

              @Jaybird, What I’m hearing and remembering from past posts is that mostly you hate progressives so you are refusing to define SoCon’s as conservative. Conservative and progressive do not have some sort of one pure meaning that transcends time and space. You could trace SoCon beliefs through religious groups for centuries. What is more socially conservative then trying to preserve ones chosen social order?

              Government being involved in preservation of virtue and elimination of vice is a belief that goes far beyond turn of the century progressives. I think i could find plenty of pilgrims, founding fathers and just plain folk types that would sign onto those beliefs for most of our history. Aggressive foreign policy has been a pretty commonly held belief in America since….ummm ohhh…well the 1700’s. That is if you take the Indian nations as foreign states we were more then happy to act against. Like them or not, those are very traditional American positions that very often transcend R vs L divisions.Report

            • Avatar Joe Carter says:

              @Jaybird, These are not socially conservative positions.

              Really? Then why were such laws in place for hundreds of years prior to the 20th century? Were the Puritans not social conservatives?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Rufus and Greg, nah, I haven’t done a guest post in ages… I don’t know if this one moves me particularly. We’ll see in the days to come. Let me percolate on it.

              Greg, there are plenty of things that are “conservative” when I do them but “progressive” when I have the state force other people to do them.

              The basic difference between conservativism and progressivism that I tend to make is this:

              In the face of adversity, do you say “well, what’s the last thing that was kinda like this that happened? What did we do then that worked? Let’s do that again.”

              If you are more interested with the idea that this must have happened before and the people then got through it and we should do what they did… then you’re probably a conservative.

              If you see such things and you don’t particularly care what happened last time, if there was a last time, and this is an opportunity for us to try something new, something wonderful, and make everything even better? You’re probably a progressive.

              The turn of the century progressives had a lot of really groundbreaking ideas and a wealth of science backing up their opinions about prohibition, eugenics, and their ability to perfect humans through proper management.

              This is something that happened.

              And, you know what? The so-called “conservatives” don’t care that it happened before and they certainly don’t care that it didn’t work last time.

              They’ve got all of these ideas and, damn it, they’re going to implement the crap out of them until, finally, we’re as good as we ought to be. Just like last time.

              And they’re going to fail.

              Just like last time.

              And they’re going to be in denial about it.

              Just like last time.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Joe Carter, were the Puritans instrumental in the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s because they didn’t think that the bloody C of E didn’t go far enough from separating themselves from the Catholic Church?

              If the answer is “duh, everybody knows that”, then why in the hell would you associate them with Conservativism?

              They were *PROTESTANTS*, Joe. In the 1500s.

              Does that strike you as particularly “socially conservative”?Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              @Jaybird,

              When I was a kid, “conservative” meant “racist”. (It was nicely dressed up as dislike of a strong federal government, but it was damned clear what it meant.) At least we’re past that.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Mike Schilling, sadly, there’s not a lot that I can say to that.Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

              @Jaybird,

              “If you are more interested with the idea that this must have happened before and the people then got through it and we should do what they did… then you’re probably a conservative.

              If you see such things and you don’t particularly care what happened last time, if there was a last time, and this is an opportunity for us to try something new, something wonderful, and make everything even better? You’re probably a progressive.”

              What if you see something that didn’t happen before? Does that mean… if you do anything… that you’re a progressive?

              What if you see something that happened before but you *do* care if it happened before? Let’s say you explore what was done before and look at when it succeeded and when it failed. If it always succeeded, and you do it again, does that make you a conservative? If it always succeeded, but maybe you could do it a slightly different way now with new information that has come to light, does that make you a progressive?

              If various methods (or the same method) of tackling the problem had different levels of efficacy… and you study them and then come to a conclusion about how to do it differently to increase your odds of success, what does that make you?

              ‘Cause that’s kind of how I look at things. I guess that makes me neither progressive nor conservative. Which makes sense, because I find myself in disagreement with both about half the time.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Pat Cahalan, this has happened before. Maybe not 1:1, but something pretty analogous.

              We’ve got new tech but… we haven’t changed.Report

            • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

              @Jaybird,

              “This has happened before. Maybe not 1:1, but something pretty analogous. We’ve got new tech but… we haven’t changed.”

              Illumination. I am now 57% farther along the path of grokking the ‘Bird.

              FWIW, I think this is overly reductionist. I generally believe that human nature changes in something less than geologic time and something less than historic time… probably something more than generational time, tho, so at least we’re within a workable delta there.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Pat Cahalan, just say “oh, he’s an atheist Christian anarchist who has a hobby of tweaking Progressives” and you’ll probably be able to guess the majority, if not the entirety, of my views.Report

        • Avatar Lyle says:

          @Jaybird, Of course you can have the conservative strategy of Calvin Coolidge, and the Anti Saloon League, make it illegal but don’t fund the enforcement. (Actually in the case of the Anti Saloon League, don’t push for the spending because you know the desire to keep taxes low trumps the desire for morality). Perhaps thats a new way talk tough but tell the cops don’t bother to enforce this law, for example make all possession the equivalent of a traffic ticket, pay a small fine and off you go. Actually that is the equivalent to taxing it.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            @Lyle, I think it’s worse than just taxing it because of the whole “scofflaw” thing.

            People know that there are laws on the books that nobody, not even the cops, give a crap about.

            They’ll be asking “why is it okay to eat shrimp but not okay for two dudes to have sex?”

            And, in response, we’ll get a long rambling non-answer about covenants, old and new.Report

        • @Jaybird, Isn:t outsourcing social responsibility to government the same principle that just got Happy Meals banned in San Francisco. Do you think the parentalist uber-liberal crowd could get together with the Tea Party over any issues? I don’t.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            @Christopher Carr, on the issue of “is this the government’s business?”, it certainly seems like they’re marching lockstep.

            It’s just that the one group says “we should do X!” and the other says “no! We should do Y!”

            Neither says “you know what, we should leave people alone.”

            A good example of this is marijuana prohibition vs. Prop 19. “NOYB” was not an option.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        @dexter45, oooh, yeah. And Terry Schiavo.

        Pushing for the Federal Government to involve itself? It was not socially conservative in the least.Report

        • Avatar Joe Carter says:

          @Jaybird, How is preventing the government from using its power to kill an innocent human being (without the benefit of a trial) inconsistent with social conservatism?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            @Joe Carter, is there any sphere that you think the government ought not interfere in, Joe?

            I mean, let’s say that I drink too much water and have that salt thing happen to me and I go into a coma out of which I never will leave and my wife tells the doctor to pull the plug in accordance with my stated wishes.

            Exactly why in the flying hell do you think that the president of the united states ought to get involved with that?

            Is there *ANYTHING* that you think qualifies as none of Obama’s business? Anything at all?Report

            • Avatar Joe Carter says:

              @Jaybird, I like when you said, “If you are more interested with the idea that this must have happened before and the people then got through it and we should do what they did… then you’re probably a conservative.”

              However, it tends to undercut your examples. Particularly this one.

              The Schiavo incident was a result of what happens when progressivism makes changes that lead to greater evils. For example, Florida had abandoned it’s laws against adultery, abandonment, and common law marriage.

              But Michael Shiavo had committed adultery, abandoned his wife, and took a common law wife and yet was still deemed, by the current Florida laws to be Terri’s “husband.” That is a not conservative.

              In addition, he was allowed to use his power to kill her. Terri was not in the dying process. She was not kept on artificial life support. She simply could not feed herself. The state of Florida, however, decided to allow a man who had abandoned her as a wife to have her literally starved to death. If that is not the tyranny of the state I don’t know what is.

              The Federal branch attempted to step in and prevent the state-sanctioned murder and was opposed by some people who put “federalism” ahead of justice and protection of a citizen’s rights.

              I mean, let’s say that I drink too much water and have that salt thing happen to me and I go into a coma out of which I never will leave and my wife tells the doctor to pull the plug in accordance with my stated wishes.

              In such a situation, there is not injustice being done and no reason for the state to intervene on your behalf. But that situation is in no way relevant to the Schiavo affair.

              Are you aware that Michael Schiavo originally testified under oath that Terri wanted to be kept on life-sustaining support? He only changed his tune when the money ran out. There are a lot of facts about this incident that many people are not aware of. And yet that act as if Michael Schiavo was a loving husband who was only looking out for the best interest of his wife.

              At its best, conservatism is non-ideological. It’s doesn’t merely take one principle, such a federalism, and say that it must be applied consistently, consequences be damned. If nothing else, conservatives should always be against the state being able to sanction murder without due process by a trial of one’s peers.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Joe Carter, is that a “no”, Joe?

              Would you say that everyone deserves free health care “after the money runs out” until their bodies break down in their 80’s and 90’s or just people in comas?

              Should the federal government provide this health care?Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            @Joe Carter,

            Or, to say it another way, how is refusing to learn the facts, not thinking through the consequences, having more faith in charlatans than in people with first-hand knowledge, and calling the people who’ve reached other conclusions murderers inconsistent with social conservatism?Report

          • Avatar ThatPirateGuy says:

            @Joe Carter,

            Wow, Joe you are going to be destroyed in the debate.Report

  2. Avatar MFarmer says:

    There are now, officially, 24,985 experts on the Tea Party, each with a somewhat different analysis.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    That said, the bigger long-term issue, generally ignored by liberals and social conservatives alike, was the emphasis on hiring social conservatives for civil service positions.

    That is, illegally politicizing the civil service. Funny how, effective as it was, no one brags about it.Report

  4. Avatar Francis says:

    Put another way, running for office is a lot easier than governing. Had the conservatives really wanted to maximize their chances of taking the White House in 2012, they would have fallen just a couple votes shy of taking the majority. With properly terrified Blue Dogs in tow, they’d have been in a great position to jam up any presidential agenda.

    But democracy is the theory that the public gets what it deserves, good and hard. So liberals and conservatives alike get to watch John Boehner become the 2nd most powerful man in DC. Budget discussions should be …. interesting, shall we say. Not to mention must-pass bills, like supplemental war appropriations and raising the debt limit.Report

  5. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Great observations, but I’m struggling to identify the bottom line. I continue to think that if you step back, what you see here pretty much just the continuing political process of relations between the parts of the traditional conservative alliance, now with an attractive label that two factions (strangely, two of the traditionally more estranged factions – social conservatives and conservative-identifying libertarians) are fighting for control over.Report

    • @Michael Drew, I very much agree with the first half of your statement, but I don’t necessarily know that there’s a two faction fight for control of the Tea Party, with the two factions roughly being socons and right-libertarians. I think Joe’s basically right in his assessment that the overwhelming majority of Tea Partiers are essentially just relabeled movement conservatives with a narrow focus on size of government, even if the movement’s origins are predominantly libertarian. But just because that’s true doesn’t mean that the Tea Partiers – including those of the movement conservative variety – would benefit from expanding that focus to include the entirety of the age-old movement conservative agenda.

      As for my bottom line here, I guess I’m mostly just playing in the sandbox trying to figure out how the relationship between the GOP majority and the Tea Parties is going to work and also to figure out the long-term ability of the Tea Parties to have an impact on actual policy while remaining a major force on the Right. I am, to say the least, skeptical that it will be drastically different from the relationship between movement cons and the GOP in Congress during the Bush years. Despite my normative disagreements, Joe’s post helped bring into focus for me why I’m so skeptical – the official unifying theme is too shallow and unspecific to create a governing agenda, and the governing agenda that might unite the overwhelming majority of the group is the same incoherent set of policy preferences masquerading as principles that alienated much of the non-movement conservative Right during the Bush years.

      Probably the safest thing for both the Tea Party and the GOP would just be to remain the Party of No. But now that they’ve got the House, Party of No will only get them so far – they will ultimately have to propose and pass a budget, and eventually they’re going to have to make some concessions even on that front. And because the unifying theme is so broad and shallow, that inevitably means that one of the three legs of the conservative stool is going to have to watch its ox get brutally, horrifyingly gored.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        @Mark Thompson, I’m with you totally. In assessment/descriptive mode, just taking data on board at this point. What I’ve said is how I see it so far. I’m glad to have been able to observe a full cycle now. I’d remembered your assessment as far more bullish and less skeptical, but I think we agree at this point. I’m definitely not offering any prescription for what the TPs should do in terms of agenda or identification – I don’t endorse or reject Carter’s assessment. I do think there are some very principled limited-government people at the head of the movement, even to the point of going the full-L in terms of the security state and war policy, but that its electoral impact stems from more or less what Joe lays out. So I think there is actually an interesting reckoning coming just within the Tea Parties themselves, with its intellectual and political figureheads on a real collision-course in some areas. In particular I’d watch international trade and immigration. I still think that it is overwhelmingly more likely that the various new members elected due to TP support will sort themselves out within a fractious rainbow Republican coalition according to their individual priorities more than retaining a common commitment to a Tea Party sensibility. Where that leaves the grassroots TPs, and the power of the label itself, for 2012 and beyond is beyond my predictive powers at this point.Report

        • Avatar Joe Carter says:

          @Michael Drew, So I think there is actually an interesting reckoning coming just within the Tea Parties themselves, with its intellectual and political figureheads on a real collision-course in some areas.

          That’s a very good point. A lot of conservative/libertarian activists who had limited power, have attempted to get out front and pretend they are leading the parade. Some of them are openly hostile to the socon side (Dick Armey) while some are all blank slates and will fare better (Sarah Palin). But at the lower levels of organization, the inability to determine not only what issues are important but how best to address them will lead to division with the ranks.

          Unfortunately, this implosion will be hyped by the media as the “death of the Tea Party” when all it will really be is a return to the tension of trying to reconcile diverse views within the right wing movements.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            @Joe Carter, Seems plausible. I get the impression that the people most committed to the Tea Party label are in fact the limited government folks, while social conservatives will move on to the next marketing opportunity that comes down the road and matches the moment. So maybe the Tea Parties will survive as a ideological movement in that form, but with greatly reduced political clout. Or maybe no one will cling to the label all that tightly, and limited government will just go back to what it’s been: the strongly-held top priority for a small group of voters. After all, a lot of the local orgs that make up what we call the Tea Parties don’t actually have the phrase in their name.

            Just want to say – as with Mark – I find your article very convincing on the descriptive front — among the best I’ve seen — and as I’m more or less (at best, really) a disinterested observer, the strategic component is not the part I’m mainly interested in. Good stuff.Report

  6. Avatar Joe Carter says:

    Mark,

    Thanks for engaging with my article.

    Tea Party label is just a rebranding of conservatism and insist that Republicans push the full conservative agenda, rather than just focusing on spending cuts and taxes.

    I think we’re we may differ is on whether or not issues like spending cuts and taxes are the dominant issues of concern with Tea Partiers. While that is the narrative that that media fixated on (at least initially), subsequent polls show that it isn’t so clear.

    When the NYT asked TPers what the most important problem facing the country today, 40% listed something other than an economic issue. 27% wouldn’t favor cuts to domestic spending.

    And when they were asked what they were most angry about a higher numbers said “Govt. not representing the people” (14%) than they did government spending (11%).

    I think about a quarter to a third of the TP is comprised of people who simply don’t feel like that they have a voice.

    Indeed, the distinct possibility that Carter’s normative prescriptions will be followed is a major reason why I’ve remained skeptical of the movement.

    I would say that your initial skepticism was justified. When the TP first started, libertarian activists jumped out in front and tried to give the impression that they could lead the movement. Now it is becoming clear that the movement is comprised primarily of social conservatives who care about other issues aside from economic ones.

    As I’ve argued before, the idea that economic, social, and defense conservatives are three distinct groups is a DC-based myth. Most conservatives in the fly-over states are all three at the same time. While they may choose to focus on only one area at particular times of crisis, they are not going to abandon their support or advocacy for other areas.

    that does not at all lead to the conclusion that the Tea Party would have been equally successful if it had brought social conservatism more into play than it did or will continue to be successful if it does so in the future.

    Perhaps not. But that merely means that the TP is an illusion. Does anyone think that these socons are going to put social issues on the back burner forever? What will happen to the coalition when they start wanting to focus on gay marriage or abortion or illegal immigration—as they are starting to do now?

    Without the more libertarian-inclined members of the Tea Party or without the groups with relatively neutral opinions of the Tea Party, the Republicans would not have won at all.

    True, but not all socons are TPers. While 52% of all people who identified themselves as part of the Tea Party movement are also conservative Evangelicals, there are still a lot of them that are not. Self-identified Evangelicals compromised 29% of the vote yesterday. So while we cannot carry the election by ourselves, the GOP cannot win any elections without our support.

    Indeed, it’s worth pointing out that each Tea Party-approved statewide candidate whose social conservatism became a campaign issue, whether by choice or otherwise, performed miserably or, at the very least, suffered a disappointing loss:

    Ah, that’s not true. Rand Pauls opposition to gay marriage got him denounced by the Libertarian Party of KY. And Marc Rubio is an outspoken socon. If either of those candidates had not come out as explicitly socially conservative, they would not have won.Report

    • @Joe Carter, I think we’re we may differ is on whether or not issues like spending cuts and taxes are the dominant issues of concern with Tea Partiers. While that is the narrative that that media fixated on (at least initially), subsequent polls show that it isn’t so clear.

      I probably could have been more clear in this area, including your point about TPers feeling alienated, especially since I found this to be a particularly persuasive part of your analysis. You’ll get no dispute from me that social conservatism likely tops the list of priorities for most TPers individually. However, that’s a different issue from whether the Tea Parties qua Tea Parties are themselves primarily focused on tax and spend issues or whether tax and spend issues are what ultimately binds the Tea Parties together. By analogy, maybe a good way of thinking about my point here is to consider the average World Bank protester who chose to ruin my ability to study for law school exams every friggin’ year; relatively few such protesters, whether they were trade unionists, college kids, or anarchists (ok, maybe not the anarchists) would likely list “shut down the World Bank” as one of their top political priorities, much less the very top such priority…and yet, there they are, protesting the World Bank. While some proportion of them are running around with Free Mumia signs, they’re still ultimately there to protest the World Bank with plenty of people who are ideological fellow travelers, but also some who are not.

      When the TP first started, libertarian activists jumped out in front and tried to give the impression that they could lead the movement.

      Just a quick comment on this – libertarian activists actually started the movement, which of course was then popularized with Rick Santelli’s infamous rant.

      As I’ve argued before, the idea that economic, social, and defense conservatives are three distinct groups is a DC-based myth. Most conservatives in the fly-over states are all three at the same time. While they may choose to focus on only one area at particular times of crisis, they are not going to abandon their support or advocacy for other areas.

      This deserves more comment than I can provide right now, but suffice to say that I basically agree, at least in terms of the core conservative movement. I’d argue, however, that the core conservative movement’s views weren’t just born fully-formed, but were instead ultimately shaped by elites and interest groups with missions roughly focused along those lines. The three-legged stool concept, however, remains useful shorthand. My argument, which I once made far more often, is that in the post-Cold War world it has become difficult to impossible to simultaneously advocate for all three stools without doing so in a manner that utterly alienates a large swath of the population, as well as those small – but still critical – groups whose particular ideologies have influenced the movement.

      Does anyone think that these socons are going to put social issues on the back burner forever? What will happen to the coalition when they start wanting to focus on gay marriage or abortion or illegal immigration—as they are starting to do now? In answer to your first question: absolutely not, or at least I have no expectation that socons should do so. In answer to the second, however, the more they do so, the more they will sacrifice elements of their coalition. I don’t mean that in the sense of “social conservatism is a dealbreaker for any coalition,” but instead I mean it in the sense of “the more issues upon which you base your coalition, the fewer members your coalition will have.” This is essentially what happened to the original Tea Party movement in Alabama in 2003 (see here: http://www.thelibertypapers.org/2009/04/13/addressing-some-tea-party-concerns/).

      So while we cannot carry the election by ourselves, the GOP cannot win any elections without our support. No doubt about this, which is why I think in the long run, the GOP is going to have to increasingly focus on social conservatism with a smattering of defense conservatism; as I think I’ve mentioned to you before, I suspect McCain’s failure to nominate your old boss over Palin was a missed opportunity to set this transition in motion and helped ensure that the GOP would remain incoherent and ideologically stagnant for quite some time. But so long as socons remain supportive of fiscal libertarianism and the much smaller (but still necessary) group of fiscal libertarians remains generally unsupportive of social conservatism, that much smaller group is going to dictate the agenda.

      Rand Pauls opposition to gay marriage got him denounced by the Libertarian Party of KY. And Marc Rubio is an outspoken socon. If either of those candidates had not come out as explicitly socially conservative, they would not have won. I’m not at all certain about this last statement. Wrt Paul, I’m not sure that opposition to SSM and abortion are, by themselves, sufficient to make one socially conservative, even if they are good indicators; but even if that’s the case, was his social conservatism really a major issue in the race (I honestly don’t know)? As for Rubio – same question: how much was his social conservatism an issue? Certainly, his primary defeat of Crist seems to have been largely motivated by Crist’s actions on the stimulus, etc. Moreover, his ever-shifting position on immigration seems to nonetheless be a fairly large deviation from the social conservative litmus test.Report

  7. Avatar North says:

    If Joe is correct about the underlying dynamic of the Tea party’s beliefs it seems to me, then, that the Tea Party is a very concrete indicator that the eight years of the Bush Administration were an existential disaster for the GOP. What we’re looking at is a sort of ad-hoc rupturing of the Republican party. Now granted the TP and the GOP have moved pretty much in lockstep in this electoral cycle but as soon as 1 becomes 2 then a division becomes possible and increasingly plausible as time goes on.

    What would this look like? Probably it would start with a sorting of members who have different first place priorities. Libertarians and Fiscons for instance might jump to the Tea Party while Social Cons and Defense Hawks remain in the GOP proper. Eventually the two groups would start to diverge as their respective memberships become more “pure” if you will. Then there’d be a showdown over some crucial issue followed by a formal division. Could we be looking at the nascent birth of a right wing split? It doesn’t seem impossible to me though if I were to be predicting it I’d have assumed it’d happen on the left where the Democratic party spans more ideological ground.

    Of course it’s also possible that the sorting won’t occur, the GOP will throw enough red meat to its respective constituencies to make them content enough and their natural habits remerge them. In which case the tea party will just fade away again or maybe become another PAC or think tank.Report

  8. Avatar Francis says:

    It’s now Thursday morning, so I’ll put my thoughts on the Schiavo issue down here rather than bury them upthread.

    Most important fact: the character of Mr. Schiavo mattered not at all in any of the legal proceedings. He could have been a rapist, murderer, child molester, Catholic priest or tax evader. The purpose of the legal proceedings was to discover the intent of Terri Schiavo. That intent was determined in part, but not exclusively, through Mike Schiavo’s testimony. People of bad character can still give testimony that is determined by the trier of fact (judge or jury) to be truthful. It happens in criminal courts every day. It is simply a fact that his character was not at issue. (The veracity of his statements regarding Terri’s wishes were very much at issue, and his alleged bad character was used in an attempt to impeach his credibility. That attempt failed, time and again, in the Florida courts.)

    Most important legal issue: Every state that I’m aware of allows individuals to make decisions as to the health care they receive. Put another way, I know of no state which allows a hospital, a husband or the state government to force unwanted care upon an individual. (Personally, I think the right to reject medical care should be found under the federal due process clause, but I don’t know the case law on this issue.)

    As being unconscious limits one’s ability to communicate (see, eg, Frist’s ridiculous statements about eyerolls), people may communicate their desires regarding desired medical treatment in the event of becoming vegetative in advance of the onset of that state. Mike Schiavo claimed that Terri had indicated her preference. After way more legal proceedings than are normally allowed, the Florida courts consistently determined (a) Terri was in a persistent vegetative state, and (b) Terri had indicated that were she to be in PVS she would want extraordinary medical care to be discontinued.

    The acts of the federal government were both inappropriate and unconstitutional. But that’s a topic for another comment.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      @Francis, here’s the wacky thing:

      I think that the care of Terri ought to have been handed over to her parents, who were begging to take care of her. I think that, if there is a little bit of doubt, that we should err on the side of life.

      Michael had pretty effectively abandoned his role of husband when he began co-habitating with another woman and siring children with her.

      He was no longer Terri’s husband in any sense of the legal while Terri’s parents were still, every bit, her parents.

      It was wrong to remove the tube while there were people who wanted to care for her until they, or she, died.

      BUT IT WASN’T ANY OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S FREAKING BUSINESS.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, stupid words.

        Any sense *BUT* the legal.Report

      • Avatar Francis says:

        @Jaybird, I respectfully disagree.

        End-of-life cases use the ‘clear and convincing evidence’ standard, which is a standard of proof higher than ordinary civil cases, which use ‘preponderance of evidence’ standard, and lower than criminal cases, which use the ‘reasonable doubt’ standard.

        The parents, and you, are arguing for a standard even higher than the ‘reasonable doubt’ standard; they wanted a ‘no doubt’ standard.

        But such a thing is utterly impracticable. Anyone who wished to interfere with a end-of-life proceeding could come to court and manufacture doubt. As a juror, I might have firmly believed the parents to be liars. But I might have had the tiniest whisker of doubt. If I had no ‘reasonable’ doubt of her wishes, should she then be forced to live, deprived of the last vestiges of personal autonomy?

        If the answer to that question is yes, then it needs to be fought first in the legislature. Introduce a bill that makes the standard of review for end-of-life cases to be a ‘no doubt’ standard. Hold hearings, gather expert testimony, let the public weigh in. Then the courts can decide whether such a law, if it passes, is consistent with state and federal constitutional standards.

        Why should Michael’s conduct after she was PVS matter? He was not seeking a divorce (nor was she). And why is it ‘wrong’ to allow someone to die even if someone else wants to provide care? Shouldn’t the victim’s wishes about her own body control?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Francis, I’m not talking about legal standards, dude.

          Fuck the law.

          I’m talking about what ought to be.Report

          • Avatar Francis says:

            @Jaybird
            I’m inviting you to make the case with something a little stronger than ‘that’s the way it ought to be’.

            Why should M. Schiavo’s conduct post T. Schiavo’s PVS matter? And why should T. Schiavo’s parents wishes outweigh her own?

            Should assisted suicide be allowed? What about the guy dying of cancer who secretly saves up enough morphine for a lethal dose and is then discovered by his nurse. What should she do? Pull the pills out of his hand? Call the cops? Leave him alone?

            Irrespective of the constitution, I’m a big believer in personal autonomy. So I think people have a right to die the way they want. But if they can’t speak for themselves and the family disagrees, then there’s no choice but to invoke the legal system to determine the true facts of the case.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Francis, dude, I don’t think that it is any of the government’s business. Hell, it’s not even any of mine.

              If we are stuck with a situation where it’s not the business of the government and it’s not mine and, I presume, it’s not your business… we’re stuck with Ought.

              That’s all we got.Report

            • Avatar Francis says:

              @Francis, Jaybird, government is what we use to resolve disputes. The alternative is violence.

              End-of-life disputes aren’t going to go away. If you don’t like the manner in which the Schiavo dispute was resolved, then come up with another. So that when your wife collapses into a coma, and you direct the doctor to pull the tube in accordance with her wishes, and her parents go to court to stop you, the court has some direction from the citizens of this country as to what it’s supposed to do.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              @Francis, an, of course, you force me to use it too… under threat of violence.

              Good on ya.Report

      • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

        @Jaybird,

        “Michael had pretty effectively abandoned his role of husband when he began co-habitating with another woman and siring children with her.”

        The contra statement to this could be, “Terri ceased to be his wife in the sense of ongoing commitment when she experienced brain death, and that came first”. That is, Michael may have had an existing ethical obligation to see her wishes executed, but in a very real sense no longer had any other current ethical obligations towards the chunk of meat that used to be his wife.

        If I can restate your position for my own clarity’s sake, what you’re saying is:

        Here was a case of conflict between stated preferences. We had the following entered into the record: woman’s parents wished to keep her alive, man wished to terminate her care (for whatever reasons), and we have a non-legal dispute over what woman’s actual wishes were (the legal dispute having resolved in favor of the man’s representation of the woman’s actual wishes).

        In this particular case, WWJBD? Jaybird (presuming he’s the man in this case) would pass medical decision making over to the parents, as they have a desire to continue to keep the woman alive, and (even presuming the woman’s desires are correctly represented) the woman’s desires actually are pretty irrelevant, because she’s dead and thus actually doesn’t really care. It’s really no skin off’n your nose to let them keep her nominally alive, except in the legal logistical sense.

        That’s a defensible position of “ought”, IMO. If one accepts the underlying premise that she’s dead and really doesn’t care, then allowing the parents to keep a dead person around because they have serious separation anxiety issues can be seen as an act of compassion.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          @Pat Cahalan, yeah, that works more or less.

          Except had Michael celibately sat Shiva for a couple of years and then said “this is not what she’d want”, I’d see his decision as one to trump the parents’.

          But as for the rest of it… yeah. Works for me.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, part of the problem is that I very much got the feeling that Michael and the parents hated each other and were using Terri as a club against each other.

            It had nothing to do with her, at the end of the day.

            Which is another goddamn shame.Report

        • Avatar Francis says:

          @Pat Cahalan, Some of the problems with this approach:

          1. money — this kind of care is extremely expensive. Once we go down this road, the state is inevitably going to end up getting this cost dumped on it. (ie, us taxpayers).

          2. Guilt imposed on non-consenting relatives. One reason people sign living wills is to let survivors get on with their lives. If the parents had got Terri’s body, just how awful would it have been for Mike, with his wife in this half-dead state? Could he even legally divorce her and remarry?

          3. Violation of fundamental constitutional principles of liberty. Except in rare circumstances, the government doesn’t get to decide fundamental issues of my (male) bodily integrity. I get to decide how I live and die. (OK, all the libertarians are going to rant about this point. Give it a rest. The state is a lot less intrusive than it could be and a lot less intrusive than it used to be. I’m on your side here.) Allowing my parents/wife/friends to keep my heart beating against my will is not something that the government should do.

          Once again, government is going to get involved, whether it wants to or not. Families will drag each other into court and force judges to address these questions. If we don’t have statutes on point, judges will make their best guess based on basic constitutional principles. If that’s not the desired outcome, then the various state legislatures must decide how to handle these cases.Report