Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Democrats Unable to "Hold the Line" in the Senate

The cloture vote yesterday to prevent the filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito resulted in a Mexican standoff in the Senate. The ultime goal, of course, was to block his nomination. The combatants were the progressive Democrats, "movement Republicans," and the moderates from both parties. Instead of a stalemate, the gutless moderate Democrats blinked first and gave the reactionary Republicans bragging rights and the Supreme Court another member in good standing of the ultra-conservative Federalist Society.

Moreover, the moderate Democrats will give Bush a huge win the day he delivers the State of the Union address. Because many of these Senate mods are from red states they appear to care more about their political careers than the values of both the national Democratic Party and the Democratic citizens that elected them.

The Democrats were only able to secure 25 of the 41 needed votes in order to pull off the filibuster parliamentary procedure. In fact, many Democrats voted to end the filibuster even though they will vote against Alito today. The fictional General Maximus, in the film Gladiator, screamed to his troops in the thick of the Germania campaign, "Hold the line," however, it's apparent Democrats were not ready to do battle, not when it counts.

To be sure, "movement conservatives" were definitely able to hold the line and were ready for combat when Bush nominated Harriet Myers a few months ago. They are not timid about using every political arsenal available to them, including intimidating George W. Bush. Another good example of aggressive Republicans is how Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was able to pull off his redistricting scam in Texas and, consequently, was able to gain a few more Republican seats in the Lone Star State. He was merciless in his approach and it was unprecedented.

Yes, it's true that the filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee has never been used against a nominee supported by a Senate majority and some argue that the filibuster of Alito would set a dangerous precedent. So what? These days are difficult political times, and, as in the redistricting plan in Texas, Republicans are setting new precedents all the time. Another good example of setting inventive precedents is how Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist campaigned against then Democratic Minority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota in 2004, an unheard of move in a Senate long known for its collegiality and folkways.

Steve Clemmons with the New America Foundation notes about the Democratic Alito confirmation strategy in general:
No one "owned" this battle in the progressive community, and those who rallied troops at the end were encouraged by the cynical electioneering stances of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and others. I believe Ted Kennedy's opposition was real, as was Pat Leahy's -- but the machine against Alito should have been launched day one.
The reason I fear Samuel Alito's confirmation is not the abortion issue (read Susan Estrich analysis in the Mercury News). Like Clemmons I fear Alito because the egregious abuses from the executive branch witnessed during the Nixon years should be behind us, but with Bush in The White House, and Alito in the Court, I fear we may be revisiting history due to the potential widening of executive power. Many judicial analysts have made the case that Alito very often backs executive power and the "unitary executive" theory will soon be tested in the Supreme Court.

Clemons adds:
Alito will contribute to a vast expansion of Executive Power, and this will seriously harm our democracy...Dems will rue the day that they let Alito pass; so will moderate Republicans; and so will independent-minded Americans who value our system of checks and balances. I think that there have been some real heroes doing their best against Alito -- but the Democratic establishment is still inchoate and without the backbone to fight consistently against the White House.
Democrats should not be timid in using every legal and ethical option available to them. Hard line Republicans certainly are not afraid; witness the Harriet Meyers nomination. Republican operatives forced Bush to pull the nomination and placed in her stead a far right wing, more than likely, "movement conservative." Why should Democrats not use the established parliamentary procedure in the Senate known as the filibuster? To refuse to do so is foolish because time and time again Republicans have taken a "no prisoners" strategy towards the Democrats and others who they disagree with; ask Republican Harriet Meyers. As Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) said, "[Meyers was] a good woman treated so poorly, and the people who destroyed her are being rewarded by the Alito nomination."

I say, shame, shame, shame on the Democratic Senators, who have not learned to hold the line and fight. That's why they were elected to the office in the first place: to fight for the values of the people who elected them to office.

To read Susan Estrich's op-ed piece about Alito and the abortion issue Click Here.

To read the New York Times article that reviews how the Republicans have learned to fight Click Here.


Anonymous Bladerunner said...

This self-flaggelation by Democrats is, while predictable, counterproductive and really off the mark.

Last time I checked you're from California. So who are you to judge what the values are of the people who elected Democratic senators from other states? The voters of those states get to choose their Senators, not you or People for the American Way. Although its hard for some folks in California to understand this, most Democrats in states like Arkansas, Louisiana, the Dakota's, West Virginia, Missouri and many other states support some restrictions on abortion, are much more conflicted on the war in Iraq then California dems, support the death penalty, oppose gay marriage, etc, etc. The values that drive Berkeley and Madison aren't always the same as Charleston and Fargo.

You want to trash Colorado Ken Salazar, one of our Party's bright Latino leaders? Maybe get a Code Pink idealogue to run a primary campaign against him for not fillibustering Alito. I can see it now.." Shame, Ken, Shame," ala Cindy Sheehan vs. Diane Feinstein. Is that how you're going to build the Party in California? In Colorado? Want to bitch slap our guys in the Dakota's, Tim Johnson, Kent Conrad & Brian Dorgan?

Look, most of the Dems stood up and voted against this guy. But this fillibuster fight was a modern day Gallipoli, framed by generals @ Harvard and the ACLU & NOW who told the Democrats the Country and the press would rally to their cause if they argued Bush was pushing the court to the right. Hardly....as the hearings droned on, the publics support for Alito grew. The guy was clearly qualified, got the highest ABA rating and seemed a perfect fit for the guy who appointed him who, in case you forgot, won the last election. This was no Clarence Thomas. And what's really cheeky about the Massada-complexed Dems is that they would have whined to the death had the GOP fillibustered Ginzburg & Breyer(and they had the votes to do so). SO all this scortched earth blah blah about the Republicans....they not only did not fillibuster, they supported Clinton's nominees.

Why? Because they know elections have consequences. As Barak "I voted to fillibuster" Barama noted in his unenthusiastic support for the filibuster " There's one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflectDemocratic values--and thats to win elections."

Stop whining, organize(and register voters)(apologies to Joe Hill).

10:53 PM  

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