This point is not mine — it’s been made several places before — but it can’t be stressed enough: In the upcoming battle over the Supreme Court, abortion should not be the focus. Social issues should not be the focus.

Evangelical Christians are, by and large, useful idiots for the Republican Party. The leadership of the party stokes their ressentiment, keeps them in a perpetual state of outrage, feeds them a steady diet of bogeymen and faux controversies, but never does anything of substance for them. It’s symbolism and rhetoric, top to bottom. The number of abortions isn’t going down, the amount of sex and violence in the media isn’t going down, divorce rates aren’t going down — we’re no closer to being a "Christian nation" (by their warped definition) than we ever were. Evangelicals flock to the polls for Republicans, but they don’t get shit in return.

It is to the right’s great benefit that the public battle should focus on social issues like abortion. It’s their terrain, it works well for them, it pumps up their base.

Greens shouldn’t fall for it.

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The leadership of the modern right is devoted to their large corporate donors. Not the "free market," but funneling favors, tax breaks, and subsidies to big business, creating a more "relaxed" regulatory climate. That’s not always what they talk about, but it’s what they do.

It’s possible, though I doubt it, that Bush would nominate someone to the Supreme Court that isn’t a hardcore conservative on social issues — not committed to overturning Roe v. Wade, not of the opinion that the separation of church and state is mythical, etc.

But it is unthinkable that he would nominate anyone other than a hardcore conservative on fiscal and regulatory issues. It is environmental laws, workplace safety laws, labor organizing laws — any law restraining corporate behavior — that will come under intense scrutiny.

Those are the stakes. Matt Yglesias is probably right that the short-term fight over nominees is already lost, but there’s still the matter of how to frame the fight, position this as a political issue, and lay the groundwork for future judicial battles.

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For a good roundup of materials on this issue (via Mooney), see this post from Jordan Barab.