Thursday, April 21, 2005

You know, David Brooks had me going there for a second. He almost had me thinking, "For once the little twerp is right":

Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe v. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness that has poisoned public life ever since, and now threatens to destroy the Senate as we know it....

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....

Hmmm, I thought. Maybe that's right -- maybe Roe is the reason our political life is so nasty and partisan.

Then I remembered:

The civil rights era. Vietnam. The bombing of Cambodia. Attacks on anti-war activists by "hard hats." Bumper stickers about "Hanoi Jane." The dirty tricks of the '72 Nixon campaign. The rhetoric of Spiro Agnew. The rhetoric of Attorney General John Mitchell. The plot to blow up the Brookings Institution, and all the other plots.

The Equal Rights Amendment, and Phyllis Schlafly's dark warnings about unisex toilets. Busing in Boston. Proposition 13. The battle over the Panama Canal treaty. The 1980 Reagan campaign. The 1980 campaign that targeted enough Democratic senators to turn the Senate Republican. The mining of harbors in Nicaragua. The rape of nuns in El Salvador. James Watt. Ed Meese. Jeane Kirkpatrick. Ollie North. Ads with the chant "Liberal, liberal, liberal."

"Read my lips -- no new taxes." The rumor that Kitty Dukakis once burned an American flag. Bush the Elder touring flag factories during the '88 campaign, while attacking the ACLU. The Willie Horton ad. The rise of Rush Limbaugh. The Morton Downey Jr. Show. The comedy of Andrew "Dice" Clay. The books of William Bennett. The Bell Curve. The Real Anita Hill. "My dog, Millie, knows more about foreign policy than these two bozos."

The attack on "Hillarycare." The attack on gays in the military. Travelgate. Filegate. Whitewater. Fellow members of Congress taunting Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky on the floor of the House as she cast the deciding vote in favor of Clinton's budget. Lani Guinier as "quota queen." The targeting of Jim Wright. The Contract with America. The government shutdown. The Arkansas Project. The "Clinton Body Count." Linda Tripp. Lucianne Goldberg. The Mena airport rumors. The mulatto child rumors. Gary Aldrich. Ann Coulter. Barbara Olson.

I'm not even up to Clinton's impeachment, much less the present century -- Rush Limbaugh comparing Tom Daschle to Satan, Max Cleland being linked to Osama bin Laden, John McCain being accused of emotional instability and disloyalty to his country and fathering a mulatto bastard who's actually an adopted child from Bangladesh. And on and on and on.

No, David, Roe v. Wade isn't why our politics is coarsened and polarized. Our politics is coarsened and polarized because conservatives want vengeance -- for the Progressive Era, the New Deal, the Great Society, civil rights, women's rights, gay rights, consumerism, and every other liberal change of the twentieth century. And they're not too thrilled about more recent developments, either -- overturning Roe isn't going to make them mellow out about gay marriage or embryonic stem-cell research or self-administered emergency contraception or laws that permit the removal of feeding tubes for patients in permanent vegetative states.

Maybe you just focus on abortion because it's the rare issue on which liberals and Democrats fight back.

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