Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Filibuster Fake

Well, here we go boys and girls. I always thought the filibuster compromise engineered by the "gang of 14" was merely putting off the inevitable. It looks like two sets of players who are notorious for avoiding conflict, will have to make a decision.

First, there's moderate Republicans. If ever there was a time to stand on prinicple, it's now. Bush is weak in the polls. Congressional Republicans are polling weak. Now is the safe time to take a stand and send a message, particularly for the likes of Snowe and Spectre, who are proclaimed pro-choice Republicans. Having said that, I don't think they will, and they won't have to if the second group folds.

Second, there's the Democrats. Will they stand on priniciple and be united against Scalito? Some have argued that a stand could be prefaced on anything from abortion rights, to the Iraq war, to the administration coming forth on PlameGate. All are good reasons to take a stand. It will be interesting to see just what they do, particularly the DINO'S. Tim Grieve of Salon puts it this way:
One way or another, our money says that Alito gets confirmed unless the confirmation process reveals some shocking skeletons in his closet. If we're right, the question for the Democrats is this: How hard to do you fight if you know that you're going to lose anyway? Do you devote your time, your energy and a reputation to this battle, or do you focus instead on GOP scandals that keep coming and a war that won't go away? There's a menu from which Democrats can choose now, and the choices they make may determine whether they keep winding up on the losing end of these votes in the future.
I think his analysis is just right. It won't be whether the Dems win or lose, but how they fight the game. This is a golden opportunity for the Democratic party to polish it's image as a party of some principle, not just a loosely held coalition of the entire political spectrum. I really do believe that the missing element of conviction has more to do with recent Democratic loses, than substantive positions themselves. And the polls back that opinon showing majorities supporting liberal issues.

Another argument in favor of using the filibuster comes via John from Americablog, making what I think is probably the most salient point. What is the point of having a filibuster if you're not willing to use it? By not using it out of fear of losing it, haven't you already lost it? If you're waiting to use it when it's safe, you probably won't even need it because popular political pressure will convince a majority. After all, the filibuster is a tool for a minority to use. If a position enjoys a strong majority of popular support, you likely won't need to filibuster. So why not? Scalito is certainly ideological enough to warrant taking a stand.

Finally, Matt Ygelsias has made a good point several times during the nuculur option debate and repeats it today:
The filibuster is bad. In the long run, the aspects of the U.S. Constitution that make it hard to enact legislation favor conservatism. On any given day, of course, either side may be helped. At the moment, the Democrats are in the minority so filibusters let them do useful things. But over the long haul, a more parliamentary system would advantage liberals.
He's right. Going back in the way-back machine reveals that the filibuster has traditionally been a pain in the neck for progressives, being used to thwart issues like civil rights legislation. Sure, today, Democrats may want to keep the filibuster. But how about the long term?

Matt concludes with this that says it all:
All that being said, the worst possible outcome here is one in which moderate Democrats allow Alito on to the bench in order to preserve the filibuster -- a re-run, in other words, of the original "Gang of 14" deal. If Alito winds up on the Supreme Court, the best possible way for that to happen would be a way that also eliminates the filibuster rule. If the filibuster rule is to be maintained, then the best possible way for that to happen would be one that keeps bad judges off the bench.



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