January 15, 2006

Waiting for superman (a rant)

Of course, this piece deals more in sweeping declarations of general trends than quotes, so we ought to take it with a grain of salt, but the tone certainly illustrates the stupidity with which many prominent moderate Democrats have regarded the Alito nomination (and the war, and NCLB, and Bush v. Gore, and Whitewater, and the Contract with America, and supply-side economics and ...):

Even though Democrats thought from the beginning that they had little hope of defeating the nomination, they were dismayed that a nominee with such clear conservative views - in particular a written record of opposition to abortion rights - appeared to be stirring little opposition.

'Oh, if only there were someone, somewhere, who could save us from Bush packing the court with conservative ideologues! Some organization of moderates, liberals, and progressives -- like a party, only political! An organization that could work to oppose the conservative powergrab! Yes, an opposition political party, that's what we need!'

I, for one, couldn't agree more.

This is about the point where I start smacking my head against the wall, in hopes that the last ten years or so have been a dream:

Asked if he had any hope that Democrats could slow President Bush's effort to push the court to the right, [former Clinton administration official] Mr. Klain responded: "No. The only thing that will fix this is a Democratic president and more vacancies. It takes a long time to make these kinds of changes and it's going to take a long time to undo them."

In the last three elections, Bush and the Congressional Republicans have squeaked by with victories so close, there's been serious debate over who actually won. Five or six more people go with the GOP than with the Dems, and suddenly the Dems are powerless.

"You either need a Democratic president, a Democratic Senate or moderate Republicans who will break ranks when it's a conservative nominee," Mr. Schumer [D-NY, and member of the Judiciary Committee] said. "We don't have any of those three. The only tool we have is the filibuster, which is a very difficult tool to use, and with only 45 Democrats, it's harder than it was last term."

Huh? So, Monday morning, floor of the Senate, DC phone book. Or hey, better yet, start reading all the crazy-ass dissenting opinions Alito has written. The man thinks a husband ought to have the same legal authority to deny his wife medical treatment as his children, and the justice he's about to replace smacked him down specifically for that, for chrissakes.

Yes, the majority probably will try to shut you up, and will probably ultimately be successful. I'll concede that the odds have been against the Dems on this one pretty much from the beginning. But your job right now isn't to pass single-payer health care and raise the minimum wage; your job is to stop the Republicans from getting away with shit like appointing Alito to the Supremes. If you can't get the first two done, oh well, more than we could've hoped, not your fault. But if you drop the ball on the second, if you don't even try to make a serious effort and stand up for what you believe, you've failed. Failed the people you represent, failed the job they gave you, and failed morally. We're left to ask ourselves (yet again) why we should support such tragically incompetent and weak-willed representatives.

And, you know, you forgot the other tool, which I guess isn't surprising since you frittered it away this past week: confirmation hearings! Where were questions like this:

“Is your mother right when she says that you personally strongly oppose a woman’s right to choose abortion? What do you personally think of gay rights? What do you personally think of affirmative action?”

He couldn’t say, “Well, I can’t give you those answers because it will come before me.” No, no, no, no. You’ve told us that your personal views are irrelevant. We think they’re relevant, so give us the answers. I think it’s a very, very hard question for him to duck.

You wanted to pin down his personal views, expose the conservative slimeball for what he is, you make him express his conservative views. And you don't verbally meander for nine minutes first, then let him obfuscate about his wacko beliefs. 'Judge Alito, could you explain the philosophy of the 'unitary executive', and how it relates to your personal beliefs about the balance of power between the branches of government?' 'Judge Alito, in this opinion you wrote ..., which sounds an awful lot to me like saying husbands ought to have the same legal authority over their wives as they do over their children, and Justice O'Connor seems to agree when she writes .... Could you elaborate and explain this, please, for me and for my fellow Americans, who do not have your fine legal training?'

Back to the Times ...

The panel also advised them, participants said, that Democratic senators could oppose even nominees with strong credentials on the grounds that the White House was trying to push the courts in a conservative direction, a strategy that now seems to have failed the party.

A strategy only fails if you use it and it doesn't work. The Senate Democrats' strategy seems to have been 'grandstand, then roll over and cry'.

Asked how they might stop the shift, Stephanie Cutter, a senior Democratic Senate aide, sighed and responded: "Win. Win in 2006."

No-one is going to save the Congressional Democrats. 'The People' are not going to swoop down from the sky in November and give them magical powers. The leaders of the Dems are OUR superwomen and supermen, chosen to fight the conservative swell, and it is their job to do that to their utmost power with the resources they have now. The odds are against them, and they will probably lose more than win, in the short term. But that does not obviate their duty to try.

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