Libertarians insist that the political spectrum is not a straight line, with "right-wingers" on one end and "left-wingers" on the other. Instead, it is a circle, where extremists on opposite poles touch?and share a desire to impose their particular brands of political correctness on the rest of us. Extremists may disagree on ideology, but they share a real fondness for authoritarianism.
Libertarians insist that the political spectrum is not a straight line, with “right-wingers” on one end and “left-wingers” on the other. Instead, it is a circle, where extremists on opposite poles touch—and share a desire to impose their particular brands of political correctness on the rest of us. Extremists may disagree on ideology, but they share a real fondness for authoritarianism.
I was reminded of that similarity by two unconnected recent events: the death of Andrea Dworkin and the effort by Senate Republicans to use the so-called “nuclear option” to put radical judges on the federal bench.
Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon were left-wing feminist crusaders against materials they defined as “porn.” Fair enough—they certainly had the right to speak out against books and pictures they found objectionable. But speaking out was not their goal; censorship was. They were the primary architects of an Indianapolis ordinance that was subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. District Court, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and ultimately the Supreme Court. While it was never quite clear just what they meant by “porn,” it went well beyond expression that was legally obscene. Their definition—sexually explicit speech that “subordinates” women—might easily have applied to “Kiss Me Kate,” the painting “Rape of the Sabine Women,” or passages from the bible.
Whatever the constitutional or common-sense infirmities of the ordinance, Dworkin believed that she had the right to decide what was good for other women and what other Americans should read or see. She also believed that lawmakers should impose her leftwing views on everyone else.
For his part, Bill Frist is intent upon creating a federal judiciary that will empower the radical right. The ten unconfirmed judges (out of 215) who can’t be confirmed unless he changes the Senate rules include at least one white supremacist and one who has been called an extremist by none other than Alberto Gonzales. (How bizarre do you have to be to be called an extremist by a man who thinks the Geneva Conventions are “quaint”?)
There is a reason the nuclear option is opposed by a majority of Americans, including Republicans, and by many business and civic organizations. They understand that there is more at stake than this particular fight. Once the rules are changed for this vote, it will be simple to change them again—and the current majority won’t always be the majority.
If the “nuclear option” succeeds, those of us who want to make our own decisions about how many children we will have, or what medical treatment we’ll get if we’re terminally ill—those of us who think we should be able to choose our own religious beliefs and be able to decide for ourselves when we will pray—may find that we no longer have those rights.
Without an independent judiciary willing to say “no” to the Dworkins on the Left and the Frists on the Right, all we will have left is the duty to obey whoever is in power.