James, you and Michael Gerson have touched on the tension between social and legal conservatives. In broad strokes these groups are after different things which sometimes coincide and sometimes not. Social conservatives want an outcome certain, such as reversal of Roe. Legal conservatives want to get away from judges who seek policy objectives and re-establish the normative rule that judges judge and legislators legislate. We saw the conflict between the two with Harriet Miers. Many social conservatives were, at least initially, willing to give her a shot on the theory she would “get it right” on abortion and other issues. Legal conservatives were horrified and became more so when President Bush offered assurance she would in essence be loyal to his views. In the end, an excellent jurist, Alito, satisfied both groups. Legal conservatives will argue that at the end of the day social conservatives’ goals are best served by re-instating the separation between law making and judging and sending social policy back to the representative branch where social conservatives have been remarkably successful in making their case to the voters.
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