"Filibuster". The one word that we on the Left have been waiting anxiously to hear from one of our esteemed Democratic Senators. "Filibuster". Senator John Kerry, along with Senator Ted Kennedy, has announced a planned filibuster of the Samuel Alito nomination. For those not steeped in the exciting parliamentary procedure of our Senate, a filibuster is when a group of Senators, being at least 41 in number, prevent "cloture" or the end of debate on a matter. It essentially makes sure that no "up or down" vote is possible so long as the filibuster is in place. In years past, Senators actually held the floor, speaking during the entire filibuster. Readings of the Bible or various other documents was often used to fill the time. The intent of the filibuster is to basically tell the majority to table the matter at hand; in this case, withdraw the Samuel Alito nomination. It's perhaps the purest demonstration of how the minority is protected in the Senate. Which means that it, like most minority protections, is not needed by the Republicans now and is thus despised by them.
Kerry summed up the problems with Alito nicely in a speech yesterday:
President Bush has nominated Judge Samuel Alito to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the United States Supreme Court. He has nominated a man who consistently defers to the government action regardless of how egregious it may be; a man who erects rather than breaks down barriers in the area of civil rights, a man who, to this day, has never retreated from his declaration that the Constitution does not protect a woman's right to privacy, a man who has demonstrated a persistent insensitivity to the history of racial discrimination in this country and, was even, at the government's request, willing to ignore overwhelming evidence that African Americans were intentionally stricken from an all-white jury in a black defendant's capital case.
The Alito hearings were largely a joke; a dog and pony show designated as a coronation by the Republicans, smug in their majority status. The real meat of Judge Alito's judicial philosophy is found in his writings and rulings and they render him unfit to sit on the Supreme Court. I've seen numerous ads on TV lately of purported Democrats throwing their support behind Alito because he's "supremely qualified". Another typical Straw Man fallacy by the Right, since no one was arguing that Alito wasn't qualified.
The reason Alito doesn't belong on the Supreme Court is because he's a rightwing ideologue whose judicial philosophy bears little resemblance to the United States in which we live. We don't need fewer civil rights, more corporate power and more executive authority in the White House.
We don't need a nanny state that dictates personal medical, sexual and reproductive decisions to us. Abortion is too personal and too important for the government to step in and criminalize just because certain religious fundamentalists can't deal with dissent. Roe vs. Wade and the right to a safe abortion is a necessary right in our society, as our own history shows. Overturning Roe vs. Wade will not stop abortions. It will only make them more dangerous and more expensive, while adding an undue burden on a minority (pregnant women wanting an abortion) that is already facing a very difficult choice.
We don't need a judiciary that gives even more unregulated privilege to business interests in America. The judiciary is often the only defense the average American has against the carelessness and malfeasance of companies like Enron and WorldCom. Giving such entities even more protection than their copious wealth already buys them is to structure a society against its own people's interests.
We don't need an America where the wall separating church and state is slowly torn down by Conservative Christians whose faith is too weak to stand in their own hearts alone. The United States has flourished as a spiritual nation because religious institutions were protected from the interference of the government. More importantly, we have been able to flourish as a secular nation because the Unconstitutional privileges granted to Christianity over the years have been rightly struck down in recent years. America is not the church, nor the church America.
We don't need an America where civil liberties can be curtailed because the President thinks such rights are inconvenient to his job. We don't need strip searches of children and illegal wiretaps to "protect" us; if we have no civil liberties, then we have nothing left worth protecting anyway.
All of these things, these curtailments of civil rights and assertions of executive and corporate power, all have something in common. They've been tried before. Samuel Alito and his judicial philosophy are nothing new. It's the America of the Great Depression. It's the America of the "robber barons" and the policing of morality by the government. Liberal ideals of equal rights for all, protection from corporate negligence and malfeasance and a strong separation between religion and government allowed our society to be a shining example of liberal democracy and break out of those darker days.
President Bush and his conservative supporters want to put an end to all that. They want their business interests to get preferential treatment, but lie to pretend it's to help the economy. They want to reinstate the societal privileges of the wealthy, white man, and lie about it by talking of "fairness" and "traditional values". They know nothing of either. Our traditional American values are rooted in the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, not religious medievalism and economic social castes. We don't need another Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia to further stamp out the very freedoms that make the United States a great country.
To John Kerry and his fellow Democrats I say "It's about time!" The line in the sand has to be drawn; the line from which liberals will retreat no further. Liberalism is the safeguard of our democracy and our supposedly "liberal" Democratic Senators have been absent too often of late. The filibuster is supposed to be saved for a time of great importance and that time is right now. President Bush is President over the entire United States, not just the conservative half that supported him in the last election. It's time he nominates a Supreme Court Justice to benefit all of America, not just the half that the President relates to ideologically. The Supreme Court is not a political prize for the President and his party, but the solemn safeguard of our American liberties.
Time to send Alito back home and remind George W. Bush that most of the 300 million folks he works for have had enough of his incompetent partisanship. Filibuster away!