From the little I've seen of the Senate hearings for Chief Justice nominee John Roberts, it looks like he will win easy confirmation. If not for substance, then for style. Anyone watching just the nightly news highlights will tend to like and trust him more than any of the interrogating Senators.
Democrats will do well to lay off Roberts, get the hearings done with quickly, and confirm him. Roberts is as well-qualified as anyone's ever been for the position. Supreme Court battles are primarily about the culture, and specifically about Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that struck down state laws against abortion. Ever since the Reagan Administration, liberal activist organizations have kept themselves in business by scaring abortion supporters that Roe may be reversed any day: "Donate now, so we can fight the anti-choice forces in the White House and Senate blah blah blah ..."
For Democrats to take back Congress and the White House, they must withdraw their blind allegiance to Roe. Roe was a poor decision. Nowhere in the Constitution is there implied a right to "privacy" that the states must recognize, so the Court's invoking such a right to strike down state abortion law is absurd, not to mention anti-democratic. Worse, it stretches "privacy" beyond all recognized meaning. What other surgical procedure performed for money has any state ever recognized as "too private" for state regulation or prohibition?
Moreover, the stench of hypocrisy on this issue is far more palpable among Democrats than even on the "pro-life" side. Yes, many "pro-life" Republicans have to re-check their premises, particularly their ethic of "pre-emptive war" which murders thousands of innocent people. But such doublethink pales in comparison with the "right to choose" rhetoric of the pro-Roe fanatics. How many pro-abortion Democrats demand parental notification if a teenage girl wants to get a tattoo? How many deny a 20 year-old waitress a beer at the end of a busy day? How many would deny women pistols, though the cities are full of rapists? Or marijuana to ease pain during cancer treatment? Abortion is the only "choice" that pro-Roe Democrats wouldn't regulate.
This ill-reasoned, fanatical, and hypocritical stance of Democrats to abortion is a serious liability - and an unnecessary one. It's ironic that of all things, Democrats take a hard, uncompromising stance toward Roe, the most illogical and morally dubious of all positions. But there are many more anti-abortion single issue voters than pro-abortion ones. If the Republicans nominate a pro-abortion candidate, many previously loyal voters will either stay home or defect because they agree with Democrats more; if a Democrat takes a moderate or pro-life position, the number of defectors are far fewer. Abortion is more of a vote-getter for Republicans than it is for Democrats.
Republicans prosper not because of what they do, but because of the revulsion many people feel toward Democrats. Abortion, along with similar Culture War and judicial activism issues, count for a large chunk of that loathing. People rally around Bush because he is a symbol, he represents all that the Democrats hate. The enemy of my enemy isn't just my friend, he is my leader, my idol.
But today, the Bush Administration is a sinking ship. It is waging an unwinnable war in Iraq. Hurricane Katrina has provoked, for the first time in nearly five incompetent years, an immediate backlash against Bush's screw-ups. The President is racking up huge deficits, and refuses to faithfully enforce the nation's immigration laws or protect its borders. It is times like these when Democrats must present an alternative, optimistic vision for America. But then a city holds illegal gay marriage ceremonies, or Jesse Jackson-in-the-box springs up to yell "racism" at an inappropriate time, or Senators pound well-qualified judicial nominees, and people remember why they vote Republican.
It is unreasonable to expect all Democrats to change their minds on social or cultural issues. But its leadership must ask itself, where is the base going to go? Who will a pro-abortion Democrat vote for, a pro-life Democrat over a pro-life Republican? Stretching this out, will the gun controllers vote for, a pro-gun Democrat, or a pro-gun Republican? If a Democrat talks straight about immigration, will the politically-correct multiculturalists defect to the Republican Party?
But now we should turn the tables: who will the Catholic or white evangelical vote for, a pro-life Democrat or a pro-life Republican? Whoever is better on other issues. Likewise on other moral and cultural issues: where there is agreement between the two parties, the less loyal social conservatives will be to the Republican Party.
Democrats should focus on other issues: the economy, national security, fiscal responsibility, civil liberties. It is more likely to succeed when it can moderate its tone and shift the focus away from abortion, gun control, race quotas, and other moral and cultural issues. The goal should be a truce in the Culture War. Once that battlefield is abandoned, voters could look more closely at what the Republicans have done, and what the Democrats have to offer.
And the first step in that direction would be to quickly and enthusiastically confirm John Roberts to the Supreme Court.