Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Brickbats from the Leftist Nationalizers

Feddie at Southern Appeal was kind enough to comment on my post below, "Lies, Damn Lies, and Federalism." It got a few comments, to which I'm replying here because Haloscan won't post the whole reply over there. The fellow I'm replying to is Grover, and his words are in blue. He can comment, if he wants, back over at Southern Appeal, or he can email me at the address above and I'll print it here.

Re this blog entry: What a bunch of garbage--mean, petty, paranoid garbage. You know, as a life-long, self-proclaimed "liberal" I'm willing to take the heat on a lot of things--abortion, welfare, sex education, gun control, whatever else you want to flog me with. But don't you dare point a finger at me and say "It's your fault Terri Schiavo's going to die!" That's pure, unadulterated crap.

I was pointing the finger at liberals who dredge up states' rights and federalism only when it's convenient. I was also pointing the finger conservatives who do the same thing. And what I was blaming them for was the death of federalism. As to whose fault I think it is that Terri Schiavo's going to die, it's primarily the fault of Michael Schiavo and Judge Greer, and secondarily the fault of everyone else, including me. I hope I explained that last part here.

Living wills, death with dignity, patients' rights and medical interventionism are issues that have occupied our society for decades and more, and will continue to do so as long as technology outpaces our ability to make moral and ethical sense of its impact on our lives.

True, except that I'd disagree with you about about technology "outpacing" our ability to make moral and ethical sense. Morals and ethics aren't a subspecies of technology. They're not a derivative science that must await long years of experimentation in a trial-and-error framework before they become apparent. They're the application of eternal truths which are just as much within our grasp today as they will be five hundred years from now. If that makes your blood boil, read below about federalism's ability to keep leftists like you safe from Bible-thumping morons like me.

Seventy years ago, Terri Schiavo wouldn'y have lived for three weeks. Now we can keep her alive for years and years. I suppose that's FDR's fault! What a load of bullshit.

I'm not under the impression that keeping Terri Schiavo alive for years and years is a bad thing, to be blamed on FDR or anyone else. I'm under the impression -- from Nat Henthoff's reporting among others -- that keeping Terri Schiavo alive would be a good thing, and if FDR's responsible for it, then God bless him. The only way I can think of to regard keeping Terri alive as a bad thing we can blame someone for is either to engage in what Henthoff calls ignorance and the denial of facts about her condition, or to have embraced the culture of death so thoroughly that Terri's death becomes a logical extension of Roe.

As far as I'm concerned, anyone who attempts to make political hay out of this complicated tragedy deserves every accusation of hypocrisy that has been heaped upon them.

Yes, but they'll all probably get reelected instead. Now if, by "politicizing the issue" and making "political hay" out of it, you mean thinking and writing as though this problem had legal, social and political implications, and exploring those, then you're very naive.

Federalism, schmederalism--that's not the issue here. If you get it thrown back in your face as someone's idea of irony, well boo-hoo! What did you expect?

A recognition that "federalism" (or, if you prefer, "schmederalism") is one of the issues here, which ought to be treated seriously and given hard and sharp consequences. This topic impacts liberals as much as it does conservatives, you know. You can bet a liberal future of "abortion, welfare, sex education, gun control," etc. on control of the federal government's power to impose liberal solutions by fiat, or on what I think is the healthier and more virtuous strategy of actually persuading people to govern themselves wisely. I've always thought it odd that the movement with the more dire and authoritarian outlook on human nature (i.e., conservatism) has traditionally trumpeted states' rights and local decisionmaking, while the movement with a happier and egalitarian outlook on human nature (i.e., liberalism) has traditionally resorted to authoritarianism to achieve its ends. (At least recently, though it's true that Lochner can be read for a different moral, one in which federalism is just the rallying cry of the losing side).

As for Secret Agent Man, let him go back to his tiny little world filled with evil "leftists and nationalizers".

I can't go back to it, because I can't leave it. Besides, they're always flying those damn black helicopters over my house, and over my car when I leave home, so where could I go?

The rest of us will struggle with what Schiavo story means to everyone in this country, regardless of political or religious affiliation, and hopefully draw some meaningful lessons from it.

OK, but I don't think "federalism, schmederalism" is a very auspicious beginning. Or maybe it is, see below. :)

I was commenting on Secret Agent Man, who gleefully blames everyone in sight, except himself.

For what? Killing Terri Schiavo? Only a few people are involved in that enterprise, and the ones I was talking about with regard to federalism aren't among them. I'm certainly not killing her, and I see no reason to pretend otherwise simply because you've made a hollow charge about double standards.

For making a mockery of the federal scheme? Yeah, I suppose I blame pretty much everyone for that, because pretty much everyone has a pet issue that's so important that they can't wait to shred the Constitution and make it a national law. Then they all have the gall to squawk about federalism whenever someone else's pet issue's at stake. Oddly enough, my point is almost the same as yours -- "federalism, schmederalism." Few, if any, people take federalism seriously. It certainly doesn't play a role in important decisions like the ones I wrote about. I think it ought to, but I don't see any good reason to hamstring the good guys with a one-sided idea of federalism that applies only when Democrats and the L.A. Times want to protect the culture of death.

Blame everyone for the culture of death? Well, I already blogged about that one in response to Terri's murder posted awhile ago. As much as I'd like to, I can't really deny supporting the culture of death, because I've done that. So have you, if you've supported abortion rights. So have lots of people. That's why the Pope identified it as a "culture of death," rather than a "fringe movement of death."

Maybe he never welcomed the medical advances that led to a case like Terri Schiavo's, in which case he might have a point.

Ah, I get it, I think. You believe that Terri's brain-dead, or on life-support machines, and that this whole thing's about whether the machines can be unplugged to give her a natural, inevitable and dignified death. Nothing wrong with that, except it's not what's happening here. Terri's alive, aware of what happens to her, and communicates with friends and loved ones. It's easy to get the issues confused, especially since I wrote (perhaps confusingly) about both of them. One issue is whether Terri ought to be starved to death. The other issue, the federalist one, is about who gets to decide that. That's what I was writing about, that's the "wind and the whirlwind," and as to the "be damned to you," it's about a possible future that leftists don't want to, but should, contemplate.

I think this federal intervention is a taste of what you leftists and nationalizers can expect if the Republican / "conservative" dominance in the national government becomes more than just a trend. If the "right" gains the kind of judicial, media, and cultural power it craves, you can expect to see federal courts overruling Roe, and Lawrence, and even creating "penumbras" in the constitution which prohibit state laws allowing gay rights, dope-smoking, abortion, and all the other things that make leftists happy. The conservatives who've gotten their feet in the judicial door, like Scalia, who has a fair amount of integrity when it comes to federalist issues, will neither endure nor predominate. Nationalizing is done by extremists who, by definition, are hostile to enclaves of dissent. Once the conservative variety siezes the levers of complete national power, you can try bargaining with them about federalism, but they'll smell the fear and run over you like a tank in Tianmen Square.

There was once a time when the freedom to choose racism was an unquestionable principle emanating from penumbras in our Constitution. It was taught in all the best law schools, like Harvard's and Yale's. It was upheld repeatedly by the Supreme Court and the federal bench. Powerful national lobbying groups vigilantly maintained its place in the nation's life, diligently combatting any attempt to attack our Constitution with race-mixing nonsense. In other words, there was once a time when the freedom to choose racism was just like the freedom to choose abortion. Does anyone who supports abortion rights really want to make the unchanging, rock-like stability of national consensus and judicial interest the foundation of America's reproductive laws?

So far, the left's done well with nationalism and judicial dictatorship. Given that success I wouldn't blame you (gleefully or otherwise) for assuming that it will always be a friendly strategy. I just think you'd be wrong to assume that, and well advised to consider federalism-with-teeth as a more stable basis for democratically governing a quarter of a billion people who're zealously divided on a lot of significant social issues.

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