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the old potent spell

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Aug 22, 2005

Here's a paragraph from this morning's NYT article on the Roberts confirmation hearings:

Several Democratic senators said the hearings on Judge Roberts were shaping up as a risky balancing act. Failing to press him could look weak to their liberal base. But attacking too hard could draw Democrats into a losing battle on the treacherous turf of abortion, race and religion at a time when Republicans appear vulnerable on other fronts.

Notice anything odd about that last sentence?

Exactly. What's the word "race" doing there?

It's true that Democrats would lose -- that is, they'd lose ground -- in a fair contest with Republicans over abortion restrictions and freedom of religious expression. But where is there a "treacherous" political battle over race being fought in this country -- a battle that the Dems are prone to lose?

OK, if you stretch the terms by swallowing whole the idea that tightening immigration restrictions and eliminating affirmative action are forms of race-hatred, then you might see a race war in play, but an equally cynical observer could account for both positions in terms of economic interest -- i.e., he'd argue that by definition Republicans despise justice, etc., but in these cases they're voting their pocketbook rather than indulging in bigotry. So why the race card?

I suspect that Dems themselves don't feel wholly at ease with their stance on abortion, and fetching race -- even from afar -- into the mix reassures them with the memory of a simpler world in which progressives held the moral high ground on at least one of the major disputes of the day. Racism is a word to conjure with, even if it doesn't apply to the situation at hand, and even if they'd swap Clarence Thomas for a Souter clone in a heartbeat.

An interesting sidelight from the same article:

Officials of the [liberal interest] groups have warned Democrats that if Judge Roberts becomes a Supreme Court vote against their causes -- for example, in a New Hampshire abortion rights case expected to be decided before the 2006 elections - they will hold accountable any senator who votes to confirm him. "I think it is a big problem for pro-choice senators if they vote to confirm Judge Roberts and he votes to uphold the New Hampshire law," said Kate Michelman, former president of Naral Pro-Choice America.

The fact that former president Kate Michelman is doing the public saber-rattling instead of current president Nancy Keenan indicates how much damage their notorious television ad visited upon NARAL. Clearly they hauled Kate out of retirement to sing her old favorites before the news crews, while sending Nancy shopping for kitty litter in Arkansas ("no need to hurry back, dear...").

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