I've said several times lately that the social conservatives, who are playing up the alleged "moral mandate" from the Presidential election, may well overplay their hand and end up getting smacked down by the electorate later for it. Here's a good example of why I think that. The religious right has tried to move heaven and earth to keep Arlen Specter from becoming chair of the Judiciary Committee, mobilizing a huge call-in to Senate offices and an enormous and coordinated campaign of outright lying about Specter's record and his statements. They've done so for one reason - because Specter is pro-choice. But it turns out that the public is in fact more opposed to the anti-abortion agenda than Specter himself is, according to a new poll:
U.S. President George W. Bush's nominee for the next Supreme Court vacancy should be willing to uphold the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that guaranteed abortion rights, according to a majority of Americans in an Ipsos-Public Affairs poll for the Associated Press.
Fifty-nine percent said Bush should choose a supporter of Roe v. Wade, while 31 percent said they want a nominee who will try to overturn the decision, according to the poll. Support for Roe v. Wade was seen among both men and women, across most age and income groups, and in urban, suburban and rural areas, AP said.
Less than 1/3 of Americans agree with the so-cons on this one. And while Specter will support and has supported anti-abortion nominees to the court, 59% of the public, almost twice as many, thinks that he should nominate a justice who will preserve Roe v. Wade. In their zeal to get Specter because he is pro-choice, they are going to butt up against public opinion that is even more strongly pro-choice than he is. That's a recipe for political hubris that will backfire.
It also brings up another question. The so-cons are always screaming about those infamous "judicial activists" who make rulings that "subvert the will of the people" when it comes to gay marriage or prayer in schools or what have you. But by demanding that judges be nominated who will declare abortion rights non-existent, in the face of consistent evidence that the "will of the people" is that abortion remain legal, are they not engaging in precisely the same thing? It just goes to show what I've been saying all along, that "judicial activism" is an empty catchphrase that only means "judges doing things I don't like." The punchline is that no matter how many times this gets plainly shown to be true, the halfwits keep on using it.
To be fair to the so-cons, I would imagine that they would argue that because the constitution grants a right to life, and because (so they say) life begins at conception, anti-abortion judges are simply being "strict constructionists" rather than "activist judges". Of course, the judge has to be "activist" in order to determine that life begins at conception, but consistency has never been their strong point.