10 / CHRONICLESnPERSPECTIVEnCONSPIRACIES AGAINST THE NATIONnby Thomas FlemingnThe Reagan Administration’s Baby Doe policy is finallynbeing tested in the Supreme Court. Supporters see thenlaw as a neeessary guarantee of the rights of handicappedninfants whose lives are threatened by selfish parents andnamoral physicians. The Federal government has a positivenobligation, they insist, to send investigation teams—BabynDoe Squads, as they are called—into hospitals whenever anbaby with birth defects is reported to be suffering neglect.nThe American Medical Association sees the matter in andifferent light. Nearly every state has laws on the booksnleaving such difficult decisions up to parents and, to a lessernextent, physicians.nWhat exactly is going on? The arguments sound like anchorus of Humpty Dumptys whistling “The World TurnednUpside Down.” The AMA has always stood up for thenprivileges of their order in questions of health care, often atnthe expense of the rights of ordinary citizens and families. Isna lobby of the rich and powerful suddenly going populist?nAre their lawyers going to argue that state and local lawsncannot be infringed by the Federal government in itsnrelentiess pursuit of equal rights? And the conservatives innthe Reagan Administration and the right to life movement,nhave they suddenly discovered that government intrusionninto private life is a good thing and that their compassionnoverrides the larger constitutional and ethical questionsninvolved? Do they really believe that they have tamed thenwild horses of the bureaucracy, that they can harness themnto their wagon and make them trot like Tennessee pacers?nThe Administration seems to believe that parents ofndeformed babies can’t wait to get rid of them. In somenextreme cases, perhaps they are right, but if we actually arenso far gone as a people that we are willing to kill infants withnimpunity, it is hard to see what good can be done by BabynDoe Squads. If anything, they will only serve to exacerbatenthe parent-child tensions of a society that has alreadynstripped families of most of their traditional privileges.nWhatever the Court decides, the Baby Doe policy raises annumber of urgent questions about the direction of thenconservative movement in the next few years. With the leftnin almost complete disarray, the time may soon be at handn(if it is not already here) for conservatives to lead Americanback to some kind of consensus on the great issues that havendivided the country since Eisenhower left office. Conservativesnsaw Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980 as the first stepnin a revolution. Many saw the President’s successes in 1980nand 1984 as a vindication of William Rusher’s and KevinnPhillips’ predictions of an emerging Republican majority.nThis majority, based on a coalition of businessmen andnpopulists, would restore our pride, bind up the woundsnnninflicted in the 1960’s, and reunite us as one nation “fromnsea to shining sea.”nConservatives lost no time in giving the President hisninstructions; he was to turn the clock back to 1956, the highntide of Eisenhower’s postwar restoration. When the Presidentnfailed to live up to their expectations, the cry went upnagainst the king’s evil counselors—Jim Baker, in particular.nAs time went on, the slogan switched to “Let Reagan benReagan.” On the other hand, the President’s detractors,nprincipally the left wing of the Democratic Party, saw hisnsuccess in another light. His margin of victory did notnconstitute a mandate for anything more than a vaguencommitment to growth. Mr. Reagan’s popularity was strictlynpersonal and had little or nothing to do with what annearlier Republican President had termed “a return tonnormalcy.”nWhat both sides are wondering about is: Where do we gonfrom here? Will the Republican Party continue to have anstrong conservative flavor, and if it does, who will lead it?nWhatever he may be saying these days, George Bush hasnnever and will never share the social concerns of the hardnhats and rednecks that put the Republicans in the WhitenHouse. It is hard to conceive of Bush as a Knute Rockne innthe locker room rallying the squad at halftime with hisnreminiscences of the Gipper. Congressman Kemp, on thenother hand, is still only a congressman, almost entirelynunknown to the unsanctified hordes who do not subscribento conservative publications. Many think he ought to try hisnact out on the road—in the governor’s mansion in Albanyn—before taking it to the White House.nThen there are the Democrats. Will they snap back andnreclaim their lost soul by calling up the ghost of HenrynJackson? Bert Lance and Ham Jordan were warning themnlong before the 1984 debacle that no candidate could winnunless he was acceptable to Southern voters. Is the partynsmart enough to listen? Such questions seem to trouble theneditorial staff of The New Republic and National Reviewnalike.nIn the long run, the fate of political parties does notnamount to much. Most of them are far more successfulnthan they deserve. In general, they manage to retain a holdnon electoral processes only by betraying every principle theynare supposed to represent. In 1948 the Democrats turned onnparty stalwarts in the South and endorsed the progressivenRepublican position on civil rights. In ’64 Lyndon Johnsonnwas the candidate of the party that was going to keep us outnof war. A party’s greatest victories are always over ansignificant portion of the nation, and in most cases it is anquestion of “dishing” the opposition, in Disraeli’s phrase.n