The Death of Terry and the Rise of the Judge Battles

In physics, the law of inertia states that objects at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion. A further corollary is that objects already in motion take very little extra energy to increase their motion, but objects at rest take lots of energy to get moving.

The physical law relates well to the political law of inertiaTM, which I credit myself with coining some time ago. Inactive voters tend to stay inactive and active voters tend to stay active. As such, it takes lots of effort to energize inactive voters and not so much to further fire up active voters. In the same way, we can relate this to Terry Schiavo and the politics of judges.

It’s rather cold and crass to calculate the politics of this matter. But, I am not an elected official and I work in politics for a living. So, what the heck.

Janet Hook, writing for the Los Angeles Times< suggests the Schiavo issue might hurt the GOP.

So, while some GOP strategists have argued that the issue is a political winner for the party because it appeals to religious conservatives, other Republicans warn that the bold maneuver risks alienating swing voters, as well as Republicans worried about government invasions of individuals’ privacy.

“It goes beyond shameless politics,” said Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster. “It becomes a more crystallized proof point that we are no longer the party of smaller government. We have become a party of, ‘It doesn’t matter what size government is as long as it is imposing our set of values.'”

Before voting against the bill, Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican, said: “How deep is this Congress going to reach into the personal lives of each and every one of us?”

First, I agree with Jim. I find it hard to believe that in 2006, voters are really going to care deeply that the Senate, by unanimous consent, and the House with GOP and Democrat assistance, passed a law to save Terry Schiavo. At the current pace, Terry will be dead in a few weeks (if that long) and America will go back to caring about other issues. But, the activists already active will have gotten even more fired up.

More from Janet Hook’s piece

Still, some GOP analysts say the immediate poll results – and the concerns raised by Shays and others – are not politically significant because the activists pushing to keep Schiavo alive care more passionately than do the people opposing that view.

“Intensity matters,” said Gary L. Bauer, a conservative leader who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.

[Emphasis added]

Bauer is right. Intensity matters. Evangelical voters, already fired up by efforts to help Bush win re-election, have gotten even more fired up over judicial nominations. Now, they have seen the Congress rapidly pass aggressively lobbied legislation supported by the evangelical community to save Terry Schiavo. Once passed, these same evangelicals have seen the federal judicial system ignore them.

The Evangelicals, many of whom feel they are owed for their active volunteerism on behalf of Bush, now have even more cause to lobby for judges who they view as pro-life — judges who will not ignore evangelicals or their pet causes.

At the end of the day, the death of Terry Schiavo will be a tragedy for all sides. But the federal judiciary’s handling of the case just might be the catalyst to bring evangelicals to full boil on the judicial nomination and confirmation process.

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Erick Erickson

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