Monday, March 28, 2005

Anti-states' rights conservatives and other oxymorons

Mickey Kaus complains that conservative bloggers like Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Reynolds are off-the-mark in accusing Congress of hypocrisy for violating states rights in the Terry Schiavo case. As he puts it,

"That's a fine argument if you're a states rights conservative. But what about those of us who aren't?"

Hmm, interesting from two points of view. One, Kaus officially outs himself as a conservative. After I was directed to his blog by others in blogland, I was befuddled to hear it said that he is actually a Democrat. If someone who constantly mocks Democrats and writes only of the many ways in which he disagrees with them could still be considered one...well, it's a mystery to me.

More importantly, he's blithely states that all the pro-federalist conservatives, like him, are being perfectly consistent. After all, he says, if it's ok for the federal government to overrule states on civil rights, then why not in the Terry Schiavo case. Huh? Who are all these conservatives who have been proudly declaring their preference for matters being resolved at the federal level? Mickey may well be one, but that doesn't mean he can pretend that he and his cohorts, whoever they are, were there all along, openly advertising the great conservative federalist way.

Conservatives, and their political manifestation, the Republican Party, were adamantly opposed to the 1960's federal civil rights legislation because, so they claimed, they opposed federal interference in matters properly left to the states. Republicans opposed the 1964 and 1965 civil rights bills, and then benefited from the disillusionment felt by pro-Jim Crow Southern Democrats by luring them into the Republican party. By claiming, not that the Republicans opposed equal rights for blacks, of course, but that they opposed the heavy hand of Washington legislating things that should be left to the states. Now personally, I've always thought that if you are pro-states-rights, the battle over Jim Crow laws has got to be one of the worst vessels to use for this idea: No, it's not that we're in favor of lynchings, we just support the principle of states rights. Mm hmm. Please, find another means of making your argument.

Nevertheless, use this argument they did. And while clearly, once mainstream opinion moved to accept these civil rights laws, the Republican Party did too, they continued to argue the principle of states' rights. And Republicans rode this horse all the way to the White House, and eventually to control of the Congress as well. So now that they've ridden that horse in, they're dismounting and getting on the pro-federalist one, and we're all not supposed to notice?

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