Friday, March 25, 2005

Who's Using Who?

This post over at Seeing the Forest is reflective of some commentary in the leftist blogosphere questioning whether the Republicans really intended to "save" Terri Schiavo's life and whether the ambivalence suggests that Republicans have again cynically used Christian groups for their own purposes without yielding them anything of substance. And consequently, whether the Christian Right groups are finally going to recognize they're being used and rebel in some fashion. A slightly different form of this argument was posed by Thomas Frank in this past summer's sleeper book hit, What's The Matter With Kansas?

In WTMWK? Frank makes the provocative point that not only are conservative Republicans betraying the material interests of many of their lower class conservative supporters, their so-called culture war has also been a complete bust. So are conservative voters and interest groups being betrayed by their Republican sponsors?

My simple answer to this question is that both groups--the Republican leadership and the various cultural warrior interest groups--are using each other. The genuine interest of both groups in actually changing anything, whether it be the abortion laws or TV programs or whatever, is I think highly suspect. The over-reaching in the Schiavo case--one woman in a permanent vegatative state for 15 years who courts have found had expressed the desire, and thus has the legal right, to die peacefully, is a case in point. The imbalance in committment and coverage by the various anti-abortion groups to the Schiavo case seems to indicate to me that their true interest is in causing strife, not in generating universal change (witness the relative lack of attention by these groups to the Texas medical futility cases).

Further, as I suggested in a post earlier this week, the flagship anti-abortion group (National Right To Life Committee) has corporate interests that transcend or align themselves with their purported social aims. And in many cases, these groups have both a narrow political agenda, and a broader interest in electing Republicans to office. The NRTLC piece on the increase in abortions since Bush took office is reflective of this value.

Will there be some conservatives exasperated with the Republicans over these failures and manipulations? Sure. But the essential intellectual and financial infrastructure won't change much, regardless of what Republicans do or don't do, or whether or not they're perceived as merely using the conservative base. The conservative base is using them, too.

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