September 29th, 2006
Law Professor Mark Graber, over at the legal analysis Balkinization site, argues that, after today, the Democrats, ever fearful of being cast as weak on terrorism, are likely to be the stronger Party of Torture.:
In light of the recent Democratic performance on the terror bill, might there be good reason for thinking that a future Republican president might be more inclined to protect human rights than a future Democrat. Consider the following logic. A future Republican president considering the appropriate level of human rights is unlikely to be influenced by the Democratic opposition. We know the Democrats will not put up much of a fight if they think the chosen policy does not protect basic rights sufficiently and the Republican is unlikely to have a rights policy Democrats think is insufficiently rights protective. Nor is it likely that any Republican will be too out of step with the Republican majority, even if they support a stronger rights policy than the present incumbent. And it does seem reasonable to think that McCain, maybe even Frist, would be slightly less barbaric than Bush. But think of the dilemmas of future Democratic presidents. If they adopt a stronger rights policy than the present incumbent, they will face sharp GOP attacks. And the fundamental political imperative of Democrats on the war on terrorism has almost always been to neutralize the Republicans so that the election will be decided on other issues (or Republican incompetence, which is not a policy choice). Far better for electoral purposes, the Clintons and Dick Morrises of this world know, to maintain and probably exceed President Bush’s policies. No doubt this is a bit exaggerated, but should there be any doubt in anyone’s mind that a president from the present Democratic Party will err radically on the side of superduper caution before supporting any greater rights for suspected terrorists, that a Republican would probably be more likely to support what their conscience thinks right, however misguided that conscience might be.
One should emphasize that, contrary to some rumors, Democrats have some backbone. Just show a Democrat thinking of running for the presidency a public opinion poll on support for bans on partial birth abortions and you will see backbone like you have never seen in American politics. They would never sacrifice a really fundamental human right merely to gain votes. But politics is politics and, judging from the action of recent Democratic aspirants for the presidency, we all know what they believe is the more fundamental right. If I switch parties now, maybe I can vote in the Republican primary.
The sad thing is, given the performance of the Democrats over the last five years, he just may be right.