Today’s column by Paul Krugman — “What’s Going On?” — is too
good to go unmentioned. It’s a perfect example of what makes him indispensible. He says in the
mainstream media what many think in private, and he says it with coherence, persuasive logic and
a level-headed marshalling of facts that most of us cannot match. (Illustration via BuckFush.)
The column speaks of the Terri-izing of America, a place
“where dangerous extremists belong to the majority religion and the majority ethnic group, and
wield great political influence”:
Before he saw the polls, Tom DeLay declared that “one thing that God has
brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America.” Now
he and his party, shocked by the public’s negative reaction to their meddling, want to move on.
But we shouldn’t let them. The Schiavo case is, indeed, a chance to highlight what’s going on in
One thing that’s going on is a climate of fear for those who try to enforce laws that religious
extremists oppose. Randall Terry, a spokesman for Terri Schiavo’s parents, hasn’t killed anyone,
but one of his former close associates in the anti-abortion movement is serving time for murdering
a doctor. George Greer, the judge in the Schiavo case, needs armed
He cites “the rise of politicians willing to violate the spirit of the law, if not yet the letter, to
cater to the religious right”:
Everyone knows about the attempt to circumvent the courts through “Terri’s
law.” But there has been little national exposure for a Miami Herald report that Jeb Bush sent
state law enforcement agents to seize Terri Schiavo from the hospice — a plan called off when
local police said they would enforce the judge’s order that she remain there.
He fears that “the future seems all too likely to bring more intimidation in the name of God
and more political intervention that undermines the rule of law”:
The religious right is already having a big impact on education: 31 percent of
teachers surveyed by the National Science Teachers Association feel pressured to present
creationism-related material in the classroom.
Above all, he writes, “medical care is the cutting edge of extremism,” portending that medical
rights will be denied for religious reasons in violation of the law. Citing a report in yesterday’s
Washington Post, he fears that women especially will be targets. He notes
… the growing number of pharmacists who, on religious grounds, refuse to fill
prescriptions for birth control or morning-after pills. These pharmacists talk of personal belief; but
the effect is to undermine laws that make these drugs available. And let me make a prediction:
soon, wherever the religious right is strong, many pharmacists will be pressured into denying
women legal drugs.
And it won’t stop there. There is a nationwide trend toward “conscience” or “refusal”
legislation. Laws in Illinois and Mississippi already allow doctors and other health providers to
deny virtually any procedure to any patient. Again, think of how such laws expose doctors to
pressure and intimidation.
He fears the next “big step by extremists will be an attempt to eliminate the filibuster, so that
the courts can be packed with judges less committed to upholding the law than Mr. Greer.”
We can’t count on restraint from people like Mr. DeLay, who believes that
he’s on a mission to bring a “biblical worldview” to American politics, and that God brought him a
brain-damaged patient to help him with that mission.
America isn’t yet a place where liberal politicians, and even conservatives who
aren’t sufficiently hard-line, fear assassination. But unless moderates take a stand against the
growing power of domestic extremists, it can happen here.
Let’s say it again: Krugman is indispensible. So’s Doug Ireland.