TYRRELL: Liberal versus conservative

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The pro-abortion lobby cannot be happy about a law that has just been passed and signed in faraway Nebraska. There anti-abortion forces must have clout. The law bans most abortions 20 weeks after conception on the basis of “fetal pain.” Thus the Nebraskan pro-life advocates are saying that the suffering of a fetus is at least as important as the suffering of a chicken at a poultry processing plant or of a stray dog picked up by the animal control authorities. For liberalism this could mean still more liberal crack-up, as sympathizers for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other advocates of animal rights are put in the awkward position of contemplating the pain suffered by that biological inconvenience that civilized Americans still call a fetus. If they contemplate with sufficient intelligence, they might conclude that a fetus has rights.

Naturally, pro-abortionists are promising a huge legal battle. There will be claims that the fetus does not suffer. Experts will be called in. The case will be as acrimonious as every abortion controversy has been since 1973 when, through the courts, pro-abortionists forced legalized abortion on the entire country. Had the question of abortion been left to legislatures, doubtless the process would have become legal in some states but not in others. Federalism’s genius would abide. Diversity would exist.

Yet liberal justices on the Supreme Court found a “right” in the Constitution that never is mentioned in that document - the right to privacy. Thus was abortion brought down on the nation, not through the will of the majority but through the willfulness of a minority, the liberals.

The entire controversy brings to mind a thesis of mine about liberals and conservatives that I elaborate on enthusiastically in my new book, “After The Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery,” which comes out this coming week. The liberal has the political libido of a nymphomaniac, at times of a sex offender. It is impossible to restrain. By comparison, the conservatives’ political libido is more subject to reason and restraint. Almost nothing restrains the liberals’ political activism. Conservatives’ are more disciplined. Process matters to them.

Consider how differently the conservative President Reagan handled abortion from how President Obama handled health care. Reagan opposed abortion but realized that a large number of Americans favored it, perhaps not a majority but a large enough minority to render it reckless for him to force the issue. He chose persuasion and restrained his political impulse. Mr. Obama undertook health care reform recognizing that it was controversial. As Obamacare became ever-more far-reaching and opposition to it grew to the point that a majority opposed it, the president just rammed his reform through. Today 58 percent favor repeal. There has been violence from both sides. The country is torn over yet another liberal grand design.

In the culture wars, there is a new battleground: health care. The battle is going to last as long as the abortion battles have lasted, unless Obamacare can be repealed. Increasingly, the law looks like it might be repealed, for the law really is a slapdash creation, but you see my point. As with abortion, so too, with health care, the liberal political libido went wild. No restraint was shown. Tremendous anger replaced the mild dissatisfaction a significant number of Americans felt about the health care system.

In “Hangover,”I argue that so different is the liberal political libido from the conservative political libido that at least when it comes to politics, liberals and conservatives are not members of the same species. Let those who decry “gridlock” on Capitol Hill think about that. When the liberals and the conservatives confront each other, it is as though Homo habilis were confronting Homo sapiens. That is not a happy thought, though I, at least, take heart in knowing which of the aforementioned species survived.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His new book is “After the Hangover: The Conservatives’ Road to Recovery” (Thomas Nelson, 2010).

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