Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Senate Compromise Saves the Filibuster and Kills the Democrats

I am not as convinced as some of my liberal friends that this was necessarily a good compromise, either for Democrats or the nation. I wish I could be as optimistic as they are. Hell, I could use some positive feel good emotions right about now. And pessimism is always a bummer.


But to me this compromise feels more like a defeat – or at least a Phyrric Victory – than an actual win. The bottom line is that three fairly awful and out of the mainstream judicial nominees will now be seated on the federal bench


This is not just about the so-called culture wars and abortion rights. These judges will make many decisions that will affect the laws of our land, the way those laws are interpreted, and the way those interpretations affect the lives of millions of ordinary Americans.


They will get to rule on labor laws, civil and human rights laws, First Amendment issues of freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and, yes, stem cell research, and reproductive freedom.


Some of the future cases that may come before them include over-zealous pharmacists who want the right to deny birth control pills to women (and not just single women anymore); those seeking redress for workplace violations of overtime rules, harassment, and the right to join a labor union; police violations of civil rights; death penalty legislation such as whether a minor can be executed as an adult offender; and so many other major constitutional issues. I am also left wondering what would have happened in the Terri Schiavo case if one of these Bush nominees had been on the bench?


And, of course, that is what the right is wondering and thinking too. Some of us have irreconcilable differences in this country about whether we are going to become a theocracy or maintain separation of church and state. And some of these judges will come down on the wrong side of those issues. But under this compromise, they will not be filibustered.


According to the compromise, the judicial filibuster will be reserved for only the most extraordinary of cases. But when President Bush’s own Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, has criticized one of them, Priscilla Owen, as being too much of a judicial activist, it’s hard to imagine a case more extraordinary or extreme.


So I will not pop the cork on the champagne bottle to celebrate this compromise as a victory. As somebody at DailyKos said, it feels more like a coup than a compromise.


And in the end, I think it will hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans. According to polls, 47 percent of people are not paying much attention to this issue. But of those who are, about half supported the Democrats on saving the filibuster even if it meant shutting down Senate business. That half also opposed these judicial nominees as being too extreme.


Right now, both President Bush and the Republican Congress are suffering their lowest approval ratings. Unfortunately, the Democrats are not doing much better in the public’s opinion. I believe this is because Americans don’t think our country is heading in the right direction. They are fearful about Social Security reform. They hated the Congressional interference with the Schiavo case and considered it to be overreaching.

But did they see the Democrats as their champions, fighting the Republicans for them on these and other issues?


Just the opposite. They have seen Democrats talk tough but then run for cover when the going got tough.


It’s like watching somebody’s body language while they speak. If the person is saying no and nodding his head yes, observers are going to believe the body language before the words. So, no matter what the Democrats say, if they don’t walk their talk, they are going to continue to be seen as the party that stands for nothing and will say anything to get elected.


It’s what the public thought about John Kerry in the last election. It’s what they told the pollsters. They may not have liked Bush but they trusted him because they felt they knew where he stood. Republicans spent years taking hits for their ideas, but they never wavered from their core beliefs. They were willing to be seen as backbench bomb throwers in the Congress but they stood firm, drew a line in the sand, and never made dubious compromises. And that’s what gained them the respect of voters even when those voters disagreed with them.


Unfortunately, the Democrats continue take the wrong lessons from the Republicans with each defeat they suffer. They keep thinking they’ve got to tack right and adopt Republican principles. But it’s really the Republican tactic of standing up for their beliefs and sticking to their guns that they need to emulate not the Republicans’ ideology.


Right now the public perceives Democrats as wishy-washy and unable to stand for any belief. This compromise did not help their cause in the long run. It made them look like more of the same flip floppers who care more about their political careers than the nation.


And that perception will kill them every time.



sage said...

Good post. The only reason to stick with the Democrats is the alternative.

Is gridlock necessarily a bad thing? A part of me thinks the reason the economy did so well in the 90s is that you had gridlock with congress and the president locking heads.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thanks Sage. I agree, gridlock isn't the worst thing in the world. Especially if the Democrats can lay out a clear, succinct and coherent case for why they are taking these actions.

I think the public will support them if they stick to their guns and explain the principles involved and the consequences of failing to act.

And sometimes, too, and honorable defeat is better than capitulation as long as the public understands what they fought for and why.

unlawflcombatnt said...

I agree with the sentiments about gridlock. It's definitely a good thing, when the entire legislative agenda is being set by the right-wing extremist faction of the Republican Party.

There is really nothing to compromise on. The Republican agenda is dominated by the corporate, cheap labor lobby. They are hiding behind a smokescreen created by the pseudo-Christian hate groups. But again, the agenda is being set by Bush's corporate donors, who've formed an unholy alliance with the religious hate groups. The Pseudo-Christian hate groups are simply being used as pawns by the Bush corporatocracy.

Obstructionism is the only "constructive" course for Democrats. The more of Bush's agenda they can block, the better off our country will be. Democrats need to block, obstruct, and filibuster any and every aspect of Bush's policies that they can. It is in our nation's best interest that they do so.

I think Sage makes a good point about the 90s with Clinton and Congress locking horns on a lot of issues. This kept federal spending down, since they couldn't agree on what to spend on. I voted for John Kerry with this idea in mind. I liked everything about him, except his big-spending tendencies. But I never considered it an issue, because I figured his most expensive plans would be blocked by a Republican Congress.

In contrast, under the Bush corporatocracy, there are no checks on government spending. Bush has never seen a corporate welfare bill he didn't like, and neither has the Republican congress. Their motto has been simply spend, spend, spend, as long as it increases corporate profits.

Our best hope now is for the Democratic minority to block everything they can possibly block. Nothing good is going to come out of this Congress until we kick the Republicans out. Hopefully, we can limit their damage by obstructing them as much as possible. We need to stand together and block Bush's agenda, and not re-define compromise as simply giving in to his destructive agenda. Bush is the worst president in American history. He is the most mentally-challenged, incompetent, dishonest, corrupt president we've ever had. Obstructing him is not only progressive, but patriotic.


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