James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, October 30, 2006

Abortion Party vs. the Torture Party

(This was going to be last Thursday's column at the Partial Observer. The P.O. is still down and we don't know when it will come back.)

The Abortion Party vs. the Torture Party


James Leroy Wilson

Most humans don't like snakes. Snakes creep us out, even the nonpoisonous ones. A land animal without legs? That just ain’t natural. But snakes are good for one thing: they feed on rodents. A world without snakes is a world with too many rodents.

In pro football, the NFC Central Division in the 1990's was quite competitive. There were some years in which four of the five teams made the play-offs. As a Packer fan, there would be times when I would pull for the Lions over the Vikings, and other times the Vikings over the Lions. While I generally didn’t like the 49ers or the Cowboys, I would cheer those teams on when they played the Packers’ division rivals. These transient allegiances all were based on the Packers’ place in the standings. Every sports fan knows what I’m talking about. Loyalty had nothing to do with it. I cheered for one team’s success not for their sake, but for mine.

That’s how I feel about the 2004 Congressional elections. Pulling for the Abortion Party does not mean that I like it. It’s just that divided government is preferable to domination by the Torture Party.

Some may object that it’s unfair to call the Democratic Party the Abortion Party. Others may think it’s mean to call the Republican Party the Torture Party. They are wrong.

Look at it this way. Besides abortion, what do the Democrats stand for, that distinguishes them from the Republicans? Large numbers of Democrats supported the War on Iraq, the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, and the Medicare Drug Benefit. The latter two were arguably “Democratic” issues. Likewise, one will find plenty of Republicans willing to vote for minimum wage hikes. The leadership of both parties are more concerned with Israel’s security than America’s. The Republican leadership seems passive at best on social issues such as race quotas. And not too many Democratic office holders have actually come out in favor of gay marriage. The Democrats are still trapped in a centralist, managerial Big Government mind-set. They still embrace the philosophy that Jeff Taylor ascribes to Hubert Humphrey: “Special privileges for all.” Democrats stand for whatever they think the audience likes at any particular moment.

We can rely on Democrats screaming, fussing, and filibustering on Republican judicial nominations. They view Republican judges as the main threat to legal abortion. They’ll stop that, but won’t lift a finger to protect any other right or freedom. Democrats are reliably pro-abortion. They're not reliable on anything else.

And what better exposes the soul of the Republican Party if not the roll call votes of the House and Senate for the Military Commissions Act? The bill is essentially a declaration of war on the human race: American soldiers or agents can nab anyone in the world, and torture and detain him indefinitely without even a hearing. The issue is not whether foreigners should be protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights, the issue is whether the United States will respect basic human rights. The Torture Party mocks the concept; to the Torturers, only the unborn have rights.

This issue demonstrates the underlying philosophy of the Republican Party. Beneath the veil of limited, conservative government is an authoritarian impulse that craves dictatorial rule. The (moderate and qualified) libertarianism of Barry Goldwater, and the hands-off, frugal conservatism of Calvin Coolidge have all but disappeared. In its place are older Republican values associated with Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln. Specifically, nationalism and militarism. Ronald Reagan isn’t admired by the Right for his anti-government rhetoric, but for his flag-waving and military build-up. Other heroes of modern-day Republicans are the Democratic Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman. Wilson turned warfare into a holy crusade. FDR was a great “war” President and expanded the powers of the Presidency. Harry Truman dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese (which is viewed by the Right as heroic) and built the National Security State. Far more inspiring to the Republican than the “America First” crowd, or the dull administration Eisenhower and Taft.

The philosophy of the Torture Party is that if we don’t shove “American values” down the throat of everyone else by force, “they” will destroy us. Resisting American domination is “evil.” Domestic critics of the President are treasonous. Foreign allies who question us are “appeasers.” Any non-ally is a threat, and we are justified in “pre-emptively” destroying them on the off chance that they may develop a viable nuclear deterrent in ten or twenty years.

It is this Nationalist undercurrent, and not the “low taxes, limited government” philosophy, that defines the Republican Party today. The Military Commissions Act, repealing habeas corpus and the ratifying torture, is the epitome of this worship of power; it says that the President can do anything to anyone. This is an inversion of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Instead of a government accountable to the people, we have a people at the mercy of the government. Ironically, then, the Republican agenda of exporting American values has led to the abandonment of those values at home.

The Republicans weren’t always this bad, but then again, they rarely had control of both houses of Congress at the Presidency at the same time. When they held Congress with a Democratic President, they did a decent job of keeping spending under control. Some of our most prosperous times came under divided government, such as in the Reagan and Eisenhower years.

And divided government is our best hope today. There is no other way to check President Bush’s worst impulses. The Republicans have not and will not restrain the President. They will never impeach Bush. They have enlarged government, turned budget surpluses into the greatest deficits in history (and therefore raised taxes over the long term), and put the finishing touches on a domestic police state. Even though the Democrats are entirely devoid of principles, and might have done the same if they controlled all branches of government, the spirit of partisanship alone would have caused them to oppose the President.

When one party rules all branches, we get disasters such as the Johnson and G.W. Bush administrations. But with divided government, petty partisanship will cause one side to stand against the evils of the other. In a land without ethics or principles, partisanship may be the closest thing to a check on tyranny that we have. For that reason, one can despise the Abortion Party and still want it to win. No one else will stop the Torture Party.

1 comment:

  1. Do-It-Yourself Impeachment, no joke.
    The Citizens' movement.

    The day the nation demands impeachment is almost upon us. On Jan 3rd, sacks and sacks of mail will be sent to congress demanding impeachment via the House of Representative's own rules. This legal document is as binding as if a State or if the House itself passed the impeachment resolution (H.R. 635).

    There's a little known and rarely used clause of the "Jefferson Manual" in the rules for the House of Representatives which sets forth the various ways in which a president can be impeached. Only the House Judiciary Committee puts together the Articles of Impeachment, but before that happens, someone has to initiate the process.

    That's where we come in. In addition to the State-by-State method, one of the ways to get impeachment going is for individual citizens like you and me to submit a memorial. ImpeachforPeace.org, part of the movement to impeach the president, has created a new memorial based on one which was successful in impeaching a federal official in the past. You can find it on their website as a PDF.


    You can initiate the impeachment process yourself by downloading the memorial, filling in the relevant information in the blanks (your name, state, etc.), and sending it in. Be a part of history.