March 24th, 2005 | Published in Uncategorized
As Kevin Drum reports with glee, a vast majority of Americans think that the Republicans are using the Terry Schiavo case for crass political purposes. Unfortunately, I still don’t think this is a strategic mistake by the President–on the contrary, it’s quite shrewd.
This is one of those political situations in which simple poll numbers of the “yes/no” variety aren’t particularly helpful. The important question is not how people feel about the Schiavo situation, but how much they feel it. Of the people who think the Republicans are engaged in petty grandstanding, I’d wager that few are going to change their votes over the issue. But the minority that approves of the Federal intervention in the case is made up largely of hard-core social conservatives. The Schiavo business is a sop to these people, who otherwise feel somewhat sidelined by the federal Republicans (see Marriage, Gay). This is particularly acute since, as Ed Kilgore points out, this whole case is really about anti-abortion politics by other means.
When all is said and done, most people will forget all about this case. But the ultra-right won’t, and by intervening in this case the Republicans have firmed up the support of a key segment of their base.