The Lonely Centrist

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A GOP Disaster in the Making?

The merits of Harriet Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court have been well debated throughout the blogosphere. I just want to suggest that, leaving aside the merits of the nomination, it is likely to turn into a political debacle for Republicans.

Let's assume that Miers is confirmed, as I think she will be. Most of the Republican base is unhappy with the appointment, seeing it primarily as a squandered opportunity. For six years social conservatives, who make up much of the GOP base, have been trusting Bush to deliver. For them, this was the moment - and Bush's response was, "keep trusting me." They won't oppose Miers, but there is no enthusiasm whatsoever for the pick. As I see it, then, Miers will have less than one year before the 2006 elections, less than 3 years before the 2008 elections, to deliver big and show that the conservatives' trust in Bush was justified. It is by no means certain that the Court will even hear a case on one of the social conservatives hot buttons - gay marriage, abortion, prayer in school, religious displays in public, or affirmative action - in that time. And even if the Court does, will Miers come down on the "right" side - and be part of a majority?

If Miers fails to, or is denied the opportunity to deliver in that brief timespan, I suspect evangelicals and conservative Catholics will not turn out as they did in 2002 and 2004, when their higher than usual turnout and increased Republicanism gave the GOP victories.

A couple of cases that may get to the Court early in Miers' career may actually deepen the problem. In FAIR v. Rumsfeld, she'll be asked to rule on the Constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment, which denies federal funds to colleges and universities that prohibit the military from recruiting on campus (if you don't know this, many of our colleges and universities prohibit military recruiters because of the military's "don't ask/don't tell" policy on homosexuality). This is a no-win case for social conservatives. Either Miers will have to uphold the Solomon Amendment, angering the GOP's libertarian wing (which is also not thrilled by her nomination) and undermining Boy Scouts v. Dale, which allowed the Boy Scouts to exclude gays from membership on the basis of their First Amendment rights to exclude; or she will have to side with gay rights advocates against the military. Either result will disappoint some social conservatives, although upholding the Solomon amendment will probably be reported as a conservative win, with no thought given for its impact on Dale and other right of association cases, which should, and in the past have been, equally important to conservatives.

Also on the Court's docket are two campaign finance cases, Wisconsin Right to Life v. Federal Election Commission, and Vermont Republican Party Central Committee v. Sorrell. Given that the White House has made it a priority for the past 18 months to try to regulate campaign finance more (they think they will "get" George Soros") and given that Miers is the ultimate White House loyalist, she will probably uphold these speech restrictive laws. But the GOP base hates these laws with a passion, and in both cases the losing party would not be George Soros, but a state Republican Party and a GOP-allied, social conservative group.

Many think Bush chose Miers for political reasons. If so, he needs to fire his advisors.

  • The Skeptic
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Michael Barone
  • The New Republic
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  • Democracy Project
  • Bob Bauer
  • Center for Competitive Politics
  • Ryan Sager
  • Going to the Matt
  • Professor Bainbridge
  • Volokh Conspiracy
  • Mystery Pollster
  • Amitai Etzioni
  • Alexander Chrenkoff
  • Middle East Media Research Institute
  • Right Democrat
  • Democrats for Life