Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lose The Battle, Never The War

Well, at long last, the multiple confirmation circus kicked off by Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement is finished.

From Americans United:

The Senate voted this morning 58-42 to confirm Alito. Alito's ascendancy to the nation's Supreme Court could not be impeded despite the array of public interest groups that had urged the Senate to defeat the nomination.

[Executive director Rev. Barry W.] Lynn, however, commended the 42 senators who voted against Alito's confirmation.

"History will prove that these principled lawmakers were the ones who stood to defend the rights of the people," Lynn said.

I have just a few random, final thoughts on the Alito nomination that I think are relevant in hindsight. Obviously the vote today is a big non-event, at least from the Left's perspective. We know that Republicans always vote in bloc, so there is really no chance of any outcome but confirmation. So be it.

My first thought on this matter is that, for the first time in too long, I'm proud to be a Democrat. I'm also proud of my support for John Kerry in 2004. Sure, the filibuster didn't work; no one really expected that it would. There was always hope but it was just a dim glimmer in the growing dark. However, it's worth noting that Senator Kerry was able to get 25 votes for the filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee; no mean feat. Take, for example, the judicial dark lord of far-right conservatism, Antonin Scalia. Scalia received 98 votes from a Senate controlled by Democrats. Or even look at Clarence Thomas, the most obviously unqualified Justice on the Supreme Court. Even he managed to clear a Democrat-controlled Senate, though by a very slim margin. The Democrats could have very easily filibustered Thomas and instead chose to play the "be reasonable" card and roll over. The point is that what Kerry and his fellow Democrats did is take a hard stand on principal, a stand they likely expected to be a losing one. Such principled stands are the key to re-invigorating support for the Democratic party.

My second thought, as my title indicates, is that this was just one more battle in the ongoing war for American society. It's very difficult under our system of government to score many political victories from a minority status. However, in politics, moreso than in many other arenas of conflict, how you fight the battle is sometimes just as important as whether you win or lose. The Alito confirmation was a battle for the Republicans; a battle for a party with monolithic control of Washington. Sure, the Republicans are going to get their way; they have the numbers to insure that sad reality. But the protracted public battles over each and every Republican initiative is demonstrating to the American people that the Republican party doesn't represent most of them. The polls show that message finally beginning to sink in to Average Joe American. The judicial philosophies of Alito, Scalia, Thomas and likely Roberts are beneficial to businesses and executive-branch governmental authorities, not to everyday Americans.

My final thought is that it's time to move on from this battle. The Republican party is fraying at the seams, Bush remains a steadfastly unpopular President that can't find a single winning policy issue and the 2006 mid-terms are fast approaching. It's a simple truth: the party that believes government is the problem and not the solution should NOT be in charge of running the government. That's just common sense organizational management. Compare the peace and prosperity of the Clinton administration with the wars and recessions of the Bush administration; the difference is the management style. In any case, the Republicans have nothing left to run on in 2006 and President Bush is only a 14 seat swing in the House away from answering some very tough questions about his abuses of power.

America will likely have some contentious times ahead, as the new ultra-conservative Supreme Court sets about re-making American life into a funhouse mirror reflection of the pre-New Deal era. Again, so be it. The focus for liberal Democrats has to be control of Congress first and the Presidency second. The ability of one party, while in control of all three branches of the federal government, to damage the country is too great. Control of Congress will go many miles towards mitigating the potential damage of the far-right Court. It's past time to get the responsible party, the party that believes in the beneficial role of government, back in control of Washington anyway.

One last note: thank you, Senator Kerry and those who joined with you in an attempt to have an actual debate about a Supreme Court nominee. You stepped up when it counted and I, along with many other liberals in Left Blogistan, definitely took note.

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