April 3, 2011

On empathy and conservatism and taxes and faith

Reading through some news this morning, I came across this story about Clarence Thomas' recent majority decision in a case where a man very nearly went to the death chair after the prosecution had knowledge he was innocent. As you might think, Thomas and Scalia have very little concern for this man's experience.

I remember when George Bush ran in 2000 and emphasized "compassionate conservatism." While we found that there were a lot of limits to his compassion, it was an interesting idea, and one that many of us found to be appealing. The interesting part of this, however, was how many conservatives were uninterested in the concept of compassion.

This recent debate about taxation and policies seem to highlight this issue, and I am convinced there are two different conservative approaches. One, like many of my conservative friends, is the group that really wants to help the poor, but who simply disagree on the best way to accomplish that task. They worry that government is not the best way, or that they can encourage bad behavior, or that government is simply too incompetent to deliver the assistance. Those people, I think, we can work with, as they have a shared concern in the issues of the poor and disabled.

But the other side, and the one that scares me the most, are the Clarence Thomas/Tea Partiers who follow Ayn Rand was right and that helping people is a bad idea. They don't want to fund nutrition or healthcare, because they genuinely lack any concern for their fellow man. I think these are in the minority, but they are a vocal minority. They remind me of the small minority here in Norman who successfully blocked curbside recycling because they didn't want to pay 3 dollars more a month. Of course, with assistance to the poor, it has horrible implications.

We see this with Paul Ryan's recent proposal, which as far as I hear, will get most of its cuts from reducing Medicaid. Hell, those poor and disabled probably don't vote that much, so much easier to go after them instead of daring to alienate those who benefit from government programs but don't want to acknowledge that. It is an example of this kind of apathy, and the shitty approach to governing that the Republicans prefer. "Let's go after the poor and disabled." Gah.

Time for the compassionate conservatives to step up. Maybe that means that we cut programs that liberals actually like, but ones that can be managed in the private sphere. My fear, of course, is that the conservatives who want to cut all of this assistance, with the excuse that private charities can pick up the slack--is of course that they won't, and the conservatives will simply look the other way. Just as they did on torture. And just as they are doing on protecting what they call God's creation.



steves said...

I have some mixed feelings about this case. Clearly, there was misconduct. Because of that, he was allowed to go free. At issue is what kind of remedy should he have. Up until the mid 20th century, there was no remedy for a violation of a persons civil rights. Then came the exclusionary rule, where evidence obtained through unconstitutional means would be thrown out. This was supposed to be incentive to follow the rules.

Generally speaking, the state enjoys a great deal of immunity in their actions. And for good reason. Otherwise, every defendant would sue the police, judge, and prosecutor. The question then becomes when do we allow a person to sue. I think the current case rises to that level, but jurisprudence probably supports the majority opinion. The legislature could easily step in and create a means for a wronged defendant to sue, but I haven't seen them do anything.

Streak said...

No doubt, Steve. I completely understand why there are hesitations on suing prosecutors in this kind of case. But this case, as you note, appears to be at least one that should merit thought.

I am on this trend of late, but I see in the Roberts court and in all conservatives in power today--a complete lack of compassion for anyone who lacks power. Not sure how to interpret that, except to conclude that these conservatives simply don't care about the powerless.