My Take(s) on Alitoby Kyle Michaelis
The Nebraska Republican Party held a news conference at the state capitol last Thursday attempting to pressure Sen. Ben Nelson to support President Bush's selection of District Court Judge Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court.
Nevermind that, much to my chagrin, Nelson has already provided tacit approval of the nomination. Also, nevermind that only 3 months ago, the Republicans organized an even larger press conference at the same site to support Harriet Miers for the post, before that nomination was shot-down by right-wing power-brokers who refused to take Bush's word that she'd vote their interests. Obviously, there are no such worries with Alito, a known quantity no matter the fancy two-stepping around his disturbing record on the Federal bench.
On the Democratic Party's Blog for Nebraska, I posted the following in response to another's call for extreme measures against this nomination:
Regrettably, Democrats are not in a position to think of Alito’s confirmation in terms of wins or losses. This fight was largely decided in November of 2004 when the American people gave Pres. Bush a second term and expanded the Republican majority in the Senate.
The people will get the court they deserve – that they have asked for – one way or another. Democrats going to extraordinary lengths to protect the people from the Republican Party’s agenda will only delay, if not nullify, the painful but necessary realization of our country’s regression into corporate and religious tyranny.
Democrats, including Sen. Nelson, should stand up against this agenda by voting AGAINST Alito’s confirmation. This is different, however, than engaging in judicial filibustering, which should not be entered into or even considered lightly.
The sad fact is that the Supreme Court is a political football and, right now, is in the hands of the Republican Party. We can use our timeouts and challenge the rulings on the field, but it’s not going to help in the long-run. It’s time to stop looking to the refs to save us and start playing a better game, meeting Republicans head-to-head and showing the American people how we’re different.
An overwhelming Democratic rejection of Alito and the backwards direction he will take the court says a lot about who we are in terms the American people can understand.
A filibuster, on the other hand, is perceived less as principle and more as procedural manipulation. When it is rooted in questions of competency, suggestions of corruption, or perhaps giving evasive and misleading testimony to Congress, such action may be justifiable if the transgression can be made obvious enough to voters. Political philosophy alone, however, isn’t going to suffice. Alito almost eerily represents the Bush Administration’s every priority. Whether we like it or not, that agenda has the electoral endorsement of the American people.
At the end of the day, in a democracy, we can’t protect the people from themselves. Some lessons simply must be learned the hard way. We must remain true to our principles and fight for them…...but not all the way to the grave.
Leave it to the consciences and politcal fortunes of this nation’s so-called Republican moderates whether we take this backward step. Though dangerous and sure to have sad consequences, barring some turning of the tide against Alito in public opinion that might empower a filibuster, we have little choice but to give the Republican Party this rope with which to hang themselves. It is “the peoples’ noose,” and they have chosen whom they wish to wear it.
Of course, I've had second thoughts on this approach since posting the above. There are some fights that deserve pulling out all the stops. Indeed, look at my incredible flip-flop from when I speculated on Bush's next choice after the withdrawal of Miers' nomination in October:
It's all really a matter of how much a "game of chicken" Bush wants to make of this. He's already flinched once. That doesn't put him in a position of strength. With all their recent undermining of the Miers' nomination, Republican rhetoric about every judge deserving an up-or-down vote is going to sound mighty hypocritical if push comes to shove and Democrats are forced to challenge a proven partisan ideologue via a filibuster. In general, Democratic filibustering has been a disasterous course - one that should have been reserved solely for the Supreme Court. Because of Bush's weakness and unpopularity, however, it might well present an opportunity this time around for the Democrats to prove their mettle and stand up for the living, breathing progressive Constitution that the American people demand.
For once, I think it might be time that we borrow a line from Bush (at his most cowboy-ish) - "Bring it on!"
What happened since then? Have I lost my fighting spirit? Is Nelson's would-be "pragmatism" (some might call it cowardice) rubbing off on me? Tough to say.
If the Democratic Party doesn't make a true fight of the Alito nomination, I do fear they may be selling America down the river. But, I just don't know that there's the strength, solidarity, and recognized urgency there to support taking any other approach.
So, which of my takes do you agree with? Maybe you have your own. As always, I'd love to hear what any of you have to say. Is this a battle we can win? More importantly, if we aren't willing to draw the line here, what claim do we possibly have to purpose or principle? Does letting the ruling Republican Party have its way - registering our objecting but not pulling out all the stops - absolve us of their sins?
Tough questions all of them. What saddens me is that I don't trust Senator Nelson is even asking them...at least, not anymore, not during an election year.