Sunday, March 8, 2020

Left Rites

     [A reprint for today. The fulminations of some on the left against the Supreme Court for daring to consider the Louisiana law requiring abortionists to have hospital admissions privileges, got me thinking about an earlier contretemps discussed in the article below. The article first appeared in the old Palace of Reason on June 24, 2003. -- FWP]

     Certain behaviors of our political families, and of the flacksters and interest groups that swarm around them, are highly regular. For example, you can count on the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to predict imminent doom whenever a large corporation is granted a permit to build a plant, expand an existing one, or sink a hole in the earth for any reason. You can count on Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to scream "racism" whenever some racial set-aside is challenged, or whenever a white candidate edges out a black one for a high-profile position. You can count on NOW and NARAL to scream about the abridgement of women's sacred "right to choose" whenever a state government proposes a law requiring parental notification when an underage girl seeks an abortion.

     You can also expect Democratic presidential candidates to pander to special interests at every opportunity.

     The decisions handed down yesterday in the University of Michigan racial-preferences cases before the Supreme Court satisfied very few. On the Right, where preferences have been excoriated for decades, the reaction was muted, almost resigned. The Court's delegitimization of UM's "point system," which gave black applicants a huge edge over white ones solely because of their race, was viewed favorably, but with a bittersweet edge. In the pattern of the Bakke case of twenty-five years ago, the Court maintained a qualified approval of "affirmative action" and the desirability of universities extending preferential treatment for the sake of "diversity."

     On the Left, as represented by Democratic seekers after their party's presidential nod, the reaction was practically hysterical:

  • Richard Gephardt: "Any effort to deny our nation's compelling interest in ensuring diversity is short-sighted and wrong....When I'm president, we'll do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does tomorrow or any other day."
  • Dennis Kucinich: "If this president doesn't want to let us be one nation, then it's time to elect a president who will let us be one nation."
  • Howard Dean: "The president has divided us. He's divided us by race by using the word 'quotas.' There's no such thing as a quota at the University of Michigan, never has been."
  • John Kerry: "We deserve a president of the United States who doesn't call fairness for minorities special preferences and then turn around and give special preferences to Halliburton or to Enron to write the energy policy."
  • Al Sharpton: "Clarence Thomas is my color, but he's not my kind."
  • Joseph Lieberman: "It is wrong; it is un-American."

     (Quotes courtesy of Fox News, reporting on the Democratic presidential candidates' comments at the annual Rainbow / PUSH convention in Chicago.)

     This sort of stridency might be better reserved for decisions such as Dred Scott. Yes, that was a long time ago.

     Note how four of the six candidates directly referred to the president in commenting on this development. It's not that they're unaware that President Bush doesn't sit on the Supreme Court. President Bush is their opponent; therefore, whatever they say from now until November 2004 must somehow connect to him. If Osama bin Laden were to nuke Tokyo, these candidates would strain to color it as somehow Dubya's fault.

     Plainly, the significance of such outbursts is not rational; it is political. Since World War II, the strategy that's worked best for the Democratic Party has been to pander to the special interest groups, particularly the ones that have already been successful at getting special privileges written into the law. This is in keeping with an ancient bit of wisdom about advertising: it's most effective when applied to something that's already selling well.

     Palace readers who find these emissions unpersuasive should take comfort. They're aimed at galvanizing the already persuaded. They don't even acknowledge your existence. In Thomas Sowell's pungent formulation, you're considered "benighted," suitable only for re-education to bring your premises and convictions in line with those of the Left.

     But do they "energize the base," as the candidates seem to hope they will? Could the allegiance and activism of the interest groups thus addressed possibly be jacked up any higher by anything a Democrat might say?

     Your Curmudgeon thinks not. It seems far more likely that the candidates' statements, made so soon after the decisions were handed down, were a form of ritual propitiation, offered to the interest groups as reassurances, to prevent disaffection and disaffiliation.

     The most successful interest groups are those that have learned how to reinforce politicians' behavior effectively: to reward that which they favor and punish that which they dislike. Politicians dislike punishment, especially when their eyes are fixed on vistas of new power. So, when they can't act to favor the blocs that support them, they're likely to preclude any change in their allegiances with pandering statements.

     The interest groups appear to be mollified by such statements. Given how much some of them have gained from the Bush Administration, it might seem a bit odd, but perhaps that only increases the importance of frequent, strident reassertions by Democrats of who their real friends are.

     There appears to be no end in sight, unless the continuing fractionation of the country into ever more topically concentrated voting blocs should completely exhaust the Democrats' pandering energies. One can only perform so many obeisances per twenty-four hour day. Failing that, we can expect to see such kowtowing, as semantically empty as it might be, continue into the indefinite future.

     Now, if your Curmudgeon could only figure out how to turn a profit on it...

No comments: