[T]he renaissance of conservative legal scholarship has been one of the great success stories for the right in the past few decades. Yet, it wasn't always so. In the middle of the last century, "progressive" legal thinking was so dominant that it was hard for many even to acknowledge a different view of the law. No wonder judges felt free to issue a string of left-leaning decisions, covering everything from criminal rights to tort law to abortion.
The result was a huge backlash on the right, as conservatives, too, took to their law books, rediscovering the almost-lost world of "strict constructionism" - the idea that judges should be the umpires of American public life, not players themselves.
Today, conservative gatherings are oftentimes like law school classrooms, as movement types gather to mull once-arcane legal doctrines - and to grill politicians and prospective judges, to keep them all toeing the conservative line.
So while Bush's gut instincts seem to be conservative enough, it's painfully obvious that his head isn't engaged on these topics. That's why Bush pushed Miers - and why the movement pushed back.
The movement knows that W. will be out of office in barely more than three years, while Miers might have been on the court for decades. And the conservative movement, like all ideological movements, sees itself as eternal. So the movement, if it is to be worth anything, has no choice but to fight for what it believes - even against a Republican White House.
October 28, 2005
Why "movement conservatives" fought so hard against Miers
James Pinkerton in Newsday: