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By David Podvin
The Associated Press reported on October 5, “New Chief Justice John Roberts stepped forward Wednesday as an aggressive defender of federal authority to block doctor-assisted suicide, as the Supreme Court clashed over an Oregon law that lets doctors help terminally ill patients end their lives.”
Just days after effortlessly conning Democratic senators into confirming him, Roberts has shed all pretense of decency and revealed his true self. While hearing the case of Gonzales v. Oregon, the Chief Justice contradicted his Senate Judiciary Committee testimony by casting aside the disingenuous conservative talking points of original intent and judicial restraint. He strongly aligned with Antonin Scalia and insisted that in deference to right wing ideology the high court must trump the voters’ will.
Mr. Roberts has now made his real agenda so unavoidably clear that even myopic moderate Democrats should be able to see it. Rather than literally interpreting the Constitution, the man whose extremism is no longer stealthy plans to spend his tenure on the high court literally implementing the Republican Party platform.
It is fitting that Roberts’ first oral argument in a major case involves euthanasia because this is the area that best illustrates the self-righteous cruelty of conservatives. Freedom from government interference is theoretically the premise of judicial conservatism, but reactionaries deny that freedom to people whose chronic physical pain has made life unbearable. As a sacrificial offering to their Almighty Wizard Who Lives Beyond The Sky, Republicans insist on coercing the terminally ill to suffer needlessly. The zealots are so determined to impose superstitions upon the most defenseless Americans that they have eagerly cast aside their holy grail of states rights.
Roberts’ explicit objection to the Oregon statute is that, “It creates the potential for a patchwork of laws across the nation regarding the matter.” In other words, the states rights advocate claims that he opposes assisted suicide based on the inherently pernicious nature of states rights. This argument was rejected as pretzel logic by none other than William Rehnquist. Nevertheless, the “brilliant” Roberts has presented the convoluted rationale because his real reason reflects even more negatively on him. From the despicable theocratic perspective, allowing incurably ill human beings to decide the terms of their demise is just another secular defamation of God, not unlike letting women control their bodies or tolerating gay love.
Roberts will be the point man in what conservatives proudly call their “war on the counterculture” that is designed to reverse the social advances of the twentieth century. The effort is financed by Corporate America and is being waged against those who vote for Democrats. The GOP strategy starts with obtaining dominance of the judiciary and the extraordinary power to repeal progress that goes with it. The plan includes redistributing wealth upwards, controlling the dissemination of news, and manipulating the electoral process. There is a well-coordinated attempt to defund the Democratic Party with relentless assaults on labor unions and trial lawyers. Conservatives are working hard to eliminate the separation of church and state, censure the arts, and neuter academia. The Republicans are also intent upon reinstating repressive sexual mores by eliminating reproductive and gay rights.
Many liberal Democrats advocate an all-out counterattack that will repel the tyranny before it is too late, but progressives face adamant opposition from influential centrists. The vast Alfred E. Newman wing of the Democratic Party denies there is any reason to worry, contending that while Republicans may be wrong they pose no mortal threat. Centrists assert that the greatest danger to Democrats comes from the Chicken Littles on the left who perceive impending doom where none exists.
Although it is impossible to appease the conservative movement that will settle for nothing less than total victory, Democratic moderates are determined to try because they do not fear the consequences of failure. While liberals panic over the shredding of the social safety net and the confiscation of civil liberties, moderates have attained the peace of mind that accompanies having no deeply held beliefs.
Determined to avoid confrontations with Republicans, the centrists rationalize practicing appeasement by offering false premises. During the latest Supreme Court confirmation, several Democratic moderates argued that the 1993 GOP vote to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg obligated liberals to do the same for Roberts. Yet the parallel drawn between Ginsburg and Roberts is invalid, as demonstrated by their respective positions on Bush v. Gore. Ginsburg advocated counting all the votes and letting the chips fall where they may, i.e., democracy. Roberts advocated suppressing Democratic votes so that Bush could steal the election, i.e., thuggery.
Confirming thugs in the name of conflict resolution is a typically moderate thing to do. So is advocating the nomination of the fifth Supreme Court vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, which is what moderate Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid has done. Harriet Miers contributed money to the anti-choice movement and her close associates insist that she adamantly opposes legalized abortion. The surrealism that is American politics now features paranoid right wingers going berserk because they fear that a very conservative nominee might possibly turn out to be insufficiently fascistic. Meanwhile, the opposition leader is assisting in the destruction of human rights that his party’s constituents fervently support.
When a party that has a liberal base is being led by moderates, the inevitable result is comprehensive failure. Democrats can regain power only by challenging the moral legitimacy of the conservative movement and by taking unapologetically strong stands based on clearly articulated principles. Moderates are unable to assail Republican depravity or assume unwavering positions because they lack the core convictions necessary for doing so. Their absence of passion is the reason that they are moderate.
Moderate Democrats moderately believe in personal liberty. They moderately embrace economic justice. They moderately support reproductive rights and moderately endorse civil rights. They are moderately offended when Republicans steal elections and are moderately chagrined when Republicans deceive the nation into war. Should the right wing achieve its goal of creating a Fascist America, rest assured that moderate Democrats would become moderately upset.
The votes on important issues such as the trillion-dollar Bush tax heist and the Iraqi War and the Roberts confirmation indicate that the Senate Democratic Caucus is evenly divided between liberals and centrists. This stalemate has rendered the party almost totally ineffective. It will remain ineffective until Democrats realize that lasting power can be attained only when they promote traditional liberal values in every section of the country.
During the 1960s and 1970s, ultra-red Montana had not one but two liberal Democratic senators, Mike Mansfield and Lee Metcalf. These guys championed civil rights in a state that is lily white and they opposed the Vietnam War in a state that is superpatriotic. Their principled liberal approach made the senators the very antithesis of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council paradigm for success, yet they were elected time after time after time.
Today, Montana is represented by two conservatives, one of whom poses as a Democrat. The demographics of the state have not changed. The Democratic Party has changed. The party is now so moderate that it just allowed the confirmation of a Supreme Court justice who wants terminally ill people to suffer in vain because Jesus said so, even though Jesus never said so.
Senate Democrats have let the confirmation process become a farce in which the important questions go unasked and there are no consequences for nominees who camouflage their views. A single standard must be applied when Democratic senators advise and consent, and the standard must be that confirmation is denied whenever the slightest doubt exists about whether the nominee intends to hurt the party’s voters.
It should have been obvious that Roberts is an extremist who would impose his pious insanity upon nonbelievers even as they lay dying by inches. It should be equally obvious that Miers will reclassify the bodies of women as being governmental property. When Democrats are confronted with this kind of extreme provocation, responding with moderation is immoral. In fact, Thomas Paine said that in matters of principle moderation is always immoral.
By contrast, liberalism is the force in American politics that shields modernity from barbarity. Unlike moderation, the liberal philosophy is based on strong moral convictions, and history confirms that the moral approach is the winning approach. The calculating expediency preferred by Democratic centrists has had ample opportunity to succeed and the results have been appalling. It is time for a return to what is ethical and effective.
A central tenet of liberalism involves helping people who have been marooned by society, so liberals are obligated to confront the avoidable misery that exists in American hospitals. Terminally ill citizens are experiencing indescribable torment because their afflictions are so severe that even massive applications of analgesics cannot relieve the pain. In cases where the patient is begging for a fatal dose that will mercifully bring the nightmare to an end, only the most sociopathic and religious of people can turn a deaf ear.
Chief Justice John Roberts is such a person, and for all practical purposes so are the Senate Democrats who supported him. There are consequences when the champions of the people choose moderation over vigilance. Due to the most recent Democratic abandonment of principle, the consequences will be endured by those who cannot defend themselves because they are too busy writhing in agony.
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