Thursday, March 23, 2006

These are conservatives?

What would you characterize as--at least in their words--the primary guiding principle of modern conservatives? Ignore the religion thing for right now (or make the distinction between small-government and religious conservatives). The single principle, the thing that makes me on occasion say, "Yeah, I'm down with that," is supposed to be personal autonomy, the security and freedom of a person in themselves without government interference. I part ways with this philosophy in that I think that there is space for affirmative civil action, not just "affirmative action," but the ability of democratically elected, accountable government as a means to deal with societal issues. But I can respect the perspective that says that it's not my problem and efforts to engage government in such issues as societal issues in American black society, gender, race or age discrimination, energy policy, etc., are more likely to run into the wall of unintended consequences rather than stride triumphantly across the finish line.

Again, I don't agree with it across the board (I'm a fairly radical civil libertarian, supporting 1st and 2nd Amendments, gay and plural marriage, across-the-board drug decriminalization, blah blah blah), but I can respect it.

So under that guiding principle, how do you explain the position of the "conservative" Justices Roberts, Scalia, and Thomas in this case? Now Scalia and Thomas claim to be "originalists," hewing to the text of the Constitution as originally intended without the skewing influence of intervening case law. Well, the text of the 4th Amendment seems pretty straightforward:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Now, many things can turn upon the definition of "unreasonable." But allowing that to become the defining limitation on the elucidated right (especially when the nature of that limitation is determined by post-Amendment jurisprudence) certainly contradicts the standard "conservative" take on the 2nd Amendment, where the "well regulated Militia" qualifier at the beginning of the Amendment is considered to be mere window dressing, providing explication and context for the straightforward right laid out thereafter: "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I don't ask a lot of conservatives. I don't have to agree with them. We don't have to share the same bases for our opinions. I simply ask them to be consistent. Do you want government out of our lives to the greatest extent possible? If so, then quit supporting as "conservative" decisions that strike full force at the security of people in their person, home, and property. Don't support full-house searches when the resident doesn't permit it and the cops don't have a warrant. Don't support warrentless wiretapping. Don't support the government's ability to detain a person indefinitely without trial.

Or don't call yourself a conservative. Call yourself what you really are: a hypocrite.

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