Retired Republican U.S. Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming was on television the other night, expressing himself with the kind of rawboned candor that only a retired pol dare employ.
Simpson was opining, in his prairie twang, on the subject of abortion. He felt, for starters, that the government should “just get out of the culture business altogether.” Nobody wants abortions, he added. And, in a surprisingly sensitive observation for someone of his gender, he indicated that men should never be allowed to vote on the issue.
Ever since the Republican Party embraced cultural conservatism as a ticket to political success, there has been a fundamental—some would say hypocritical—disconnect in its platform. The small-government, libertarian wing believes that government’s role should begin and end with national defense and protecting the borders. The social conservative wing (or the “Terry Schiavo Wing,” if you will), on the other hand, feels that government ought to break into the hospital rooms, classrooms and bedrooms of American citizens to enforce a moral code that, while not hewed to by many or even by most of us, is justified in its enforcement by the sheer zealotry of its adherents.
It is sometimes amusing to follow the antics of conservative pols who must straddle the fence between libertarianism and government activism (remember the time George W. Bush rushed back from the ranch on Air Force One in order to sign the Schiavo bill into law? Only an issue that momentous could have forced him to emerge from his vacation).
There are probably a few pols who truly believe that they are doing God’s--and therefore the country’s--work to throw every roadblock they can in the way of allowing the practice of a constitutionally legal process. Then there are the opportunists who are just along for the ride⎯the morally bankrupt ones who, for example, invoke the principle of “privacy” when it suits them, and spurn it when it doesn’t.