Sunday, March 27, 2005


I try to avoid linking way right wing source, because I don't want to add to their traffic. But I do occasional comment at this blog run by a Wichita radio host. Here's what he thinks about the world: News You Need To Know: : Legislators angered by high court decisions:
The courts in this country, and in Kansas, have gotten too powerful. When the court can overturn the death penalty on a techicality which has NEVER been an issue in any capital case in the state, we have a problem. When the court can mandate how much money the Legislature has to spend on any one part of their budget, something is wrong. When state and federal courts can order a woman in Florida to be starved to death, something is out of whack. The executive and legislative branches of government must do something to restore the balance.
The issues he's responding to are: A KS Supreme Court ruling that the death penalty statute is unconstitutional because it says that the tie goes to the death penalty, a court ruling that education funding is unsuitably low, violating the constitution's statement "The legislature shall make suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state." And of course Terri Schiavo, who has had more due process than Steve Forman seems to want for the death penalty. 87% of the public would want the tube pulled if they were in PVS. The courts followed Florida law as written, except when laws were passed which were unconstitutional.

But conservatives aren't getting their results. They want a revolution. It's cute to call on the executive and legislative branches, but really each of these things was decided on constitutional principles. To get a different result would mean changing the constitution, and that means revolution.

The inestimable Thomas Frank, in his seminal text What's the Matter with Kansas?, argues that conservative voters have been suckered into voting on values issues which the elected officials can't change, and getting harmed on the economic issues which the people they elect do control. I wonder if we aren't seeing the beginning of a bigger backlash.

Are conservative voters starting to realize that the people they elected don't actually care to change the social situation, they just want it as an issue to demagogue?

Authoritarian rhetoric has two sources, politicians and non-politicians (duh). The politicians have the potential advantage of being able to offer more than rhetoric. Why don't they do more? Why haven't people written teaching ID into state law? Or pushed through privatization of schools? Or eliminated all death penalty defense options?

One reason is the courts would knock it down as unconstitutional. But that's what we call a proximate cause. In terms of analyzing the legality of a proposal, its constitutional status is front and center. But in terms of analyzing the quality of a proposal, that should come last.

Things that are unconstitutional are forbidden for a reason. We prevent cruel and unusual punishment because we don't want our government being cruel, or at least not unusually so. The worst thing that could happen for death penalty advocates is for one verifiably innocent person to be slaughtered by the state because of inadequate legal protections. It would be worse than the Schiavo affair.

If school funding were slashed, parents would literally storm the Capitol. And if 87% of America were told they'd have to remain on life support forever, they'd know who to vote against next November.

That's why the authoritarian agenda will never take hold. The selectorate might like it, but the electorate – the moderates, undecideds, small government conservatives, parents, and other quiet folk – would find their voices too fast.

So it's revolution or … I wish I knew what the alternative is that would be palatable and would defuse the situation. The answer isn't the courts and it isn't the republicans. Is a third party the answer? No. Are the Democrats the answer? Probably, but I don't see how to do it.