Sunday, September 18, 2005

Time to Amend "Advise and Consent"

I've finally had a chance to catch up on the spectacular study in boredom that was the John Roberts' confirmation hearing and I have only one response: confirm the guy already! What an utter waste of time and Senators' salaries was this farce of a Congressional hearing. I would challenge anyone, Right or Left, to describe even one concrete belief that Roberts illuminated during the hearings. I guess we can assume that he is a Conservative, given that he was nominated by Bush. But what else do we really know? His tenure as a federal judge has been too short to compile much of a record and his writings as an attorney indicate a competent lawyer representing his Republican clients. Perhaps he believes as his clients did and perhaps he does not; one would have suspected that an entire week of questioning by the Senate Judiciary Committee would have shed some light on the truth of Roberts beliefs.
For my own part, I believe him to be exactly what every liberal American was dreading: a conservative ideologue whose tenure as Chief Justice will likely signal the end of many of the social gains made throughout the past 50 years.
I believe to a certainty that the right to an abortion as we've known it in this country is on borrowed time. Abortion may likely be the most contentious social issue in this country and, frankly, opponents of it have fought a better fight. They have been relentless, exploiting every possible opportunity to whittle away at a woman's right to choose. Given that Roe vs. Wade was predicated on a right to privacy with which many conservatives, including fellow Justices Thomas and Scalia, believe does not exist, I believe it will be overturned as it stands by the Roberts Court. This will, in effect, return abortion to the states as a legal matter, which is a very bad scenario for my current home of Wisconsin, given that the Wisconsin law banning abortion is still technically enforceable minus the federal law suspending it. However, I don't imagine that the Anti-choice lobby will rest on its laurels after an overturning of Roe vs. Wade; I fully expect a nationwide push for a federal ban on abortion that will effectively end the right to choose and relegate to women a second-class citizen status. I can't imagine anything less American, but then the values I consider American seem to have little to do with the direction of the country any longer.
I also believe that many of the social programs that help support the disadvantaged shall go by the wayside. Conservatives have made no secret of their disdain for the "welfare state", by which they mean the social programs wrought by Roosevelt's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society. The power of the federal government to enact these programs was predicated on a certain interpretation of the commerce clause from the Constitution. Again, this interpretation is something that both Scalia and Thomas have argued against and against which John Roberts has advocated in his writings as an attorney.
A reinterpretation of concepts like the right to privacy and the role of the federal government threaten to drastically alter the social contract which the U.S. government has made with its citizens. The frightening part is that, given the social conditions brought to light by the Katrina disaster, the government support programs we already have really haven't been functioning all that well. As a liberal, I believe one of the purposes of the federal government is to redress the inequities of our society, be they predicated on race, birth or circumstance. If the views of Roberts, Scalia and Thomas become the mainstream of judicial thought, the widening class divide in this country will be cemented for generations.

2004 was the breaking point, I think, and it is where we liberals may have lost the war. The opportunity to stop the radical right-wing agenda of Bush and his cronies was squandered by an opposition party so long entrenched within the Washington establishment that they refuse to even acknowledge the ground they've given. Attempts at bi-partisan centrism have resulted time and again in the Democrats being compromised on their ideals while the Republicans walk away with more meat for their base.

In light of all this, it is tragic to me that our Senate could not take this last opportunity to at least let America see where the future is taking us. The confirmation of John Roberts was a sad joke, as is likely any further confirmation hearings in the future. That is why I say they should be done away with. Clearly most Americans believe in majority rule without limitation now anyway; the winning party gets to run the country and those with different ideals must take a seat and be silent.
Well, so be it. The rest of the country is about to learn what we liberals have known for years: the Right wants a corporate-dominated state that can act without conscience or reprisal. They want a land where the American dream is no longer one of opportunity but one limited to the fortune of birth and entrepreneurial success. A land where economic prosperity is the only worthwhile goal, encapsulated in a Dark Age morality fueled by religious fundamentalism. A nation where learning will be the purview of the privileged and the middle class will once again be an exploited mass of cheap labor striving for opportunity that doesn't exist.

Perhaps it's not too late. 2006 will tell the tale of changing America. Let's hope that it's not a story about a "Golden Age" that has passed us by.

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