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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

 
Living In The Now

Matt Yglesias makes thepoint today (along with a number of other liberal publications and intellectuals) that the Democrats would be better off without the filibuster:

"...however opportunistic the judges-only anti-filibuster stance is, the reality is that the nuclear option will pave the way for Democrats to eliminate legislative filibusters as well whenever they find themselves in the majority. When that happens, the GOP will find that while their only big legislative idea -- tax cuts, tax cuts, and more tax cuts -- is already immune to the filibuster, they can no longer block Democratic ideas."


I think that this would be true only in a world where double standards and lack of accountability did not rule. One would think that in the future, you could argue quite reasonably that the Republicans insisted back in 2005 that the filibuster against judicial nominees was undemocratic and the Democrats now just want to end that undemocratic practice altogether. Surely, since the Democrats acted out of principle then, the Republicans will act out of principle now and support this change. After all, they wouldn't want to be called hypocrites for saying one thing in 2005 and another now, would they?

Needless to say, this will never happen. The modern Republicans do not worry about such things as consistency and the press shows no inclination to hold them accountable for anything they've ever done.

Crooks and Liars has the video today of the Walter Cronkite broadcast of October 2, 1968 --- the day that Abe Fortas withdrew his nomination for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Why? Because THE REPUBLICANS FILIBUSTERED IT!!!!

Here's the quote from the Republican minority leader at the time Robert Griffin:

I believe that any chief justice should have widespread support among the people and the senate of the United States. In view of the deep division and the controversy that surrounds this nomination, I think Mr Fortas' decision was very wise.


Just as the GOP argues that the fact that Orrin Hatch routinely prevented Clinton's nominees from getting an up or down vote bears no relationship to filibustering nominees for the same end, the Republicans say that the principle involved in the Fortas filibuster was entirely different. He was being nominated for Chief justice which is nothing like being nominated for federal judgeships or just plain old Supreme Court judges. The principle is entirely different! Apples and oranges, my friends.

And I have read almost nothing in the press that makes it clear that the Republicans are being hypocritical on this issue. In fact, the Sunday gasbags and the likes of Dean Broder seem to be more concerned about the "principle" that Bush should be allowed to get anything he wants while the Democrats negotiate for the right to breathe the same air as he does. And Broder, anyway, should surely remember that Fortas was filibustered. He wasn't young, even then.

And just as the Republicans would not be held responsible for their hypocrisy on this issue, neither would the Democrats be given any credit for being consistent. Nobody in the chattering classes gives a shit about any of that so it has absolutely no salience for future battles. The only thing that matters in these situations is if one of the parties reaches a point at which it will force the other to play chicken. This only happens when one party is so arrogant that they are willing to bet that they will not be retaliated against in the future. This battle is the Democrats' way of saying that they most certainly will face retaliation --- and right here and right now. Damn the future of the filibuster. At some point you just have to let bullies know that you won't be rolled.

I suspect that the American people would find it disconcerting if they knew that the GOP is shamelessly hypocritical, but there is no evidence that they will be informed of this, so it isn't going to happen. What does appear to be happening is a common sense response to majoritarian bullying --- by more than 60%, the public doesn't want the filibuster to be eliminated. I suspect this is because they figure it's always good to have some brakes on the party in power. And that would very likely be the response if Democrats tried to end it when they are in power as well.

At this point I think there is no margin in trying to strategize with the idea that we will want to do something when we get back into power. As they have often done in the past ten years, the Republicans will merely adjust the argument to suit their needs at the time and the media will not call them on it.

Besides, we need to win as many battles as we can, right now. Our biggest problem isn't that the American people don't agree with us on the issues; I think it's that they don't think we are willing to fight for them. Look at this Washington Post poll (pdf). Not only does it show that a majority of Americans agree with our position on the issues, it shows that they agreed with our position on the issues before the election. The Repubicans have convinced themselves that our losing record on elections proves that the country is strongly behind them and that they cannot lose again. And just as they did in 1992, they are going to lose their minds when this is proven wrong.

This Democracy Corps (pdf) poll says:

The most visible political battles of the last three months have taken place around the Congress – the president’s Social Security initiative, Terri Schiavo, Tom DeLay’s ethics issues and the debate around the filibuster rule for consideration of judicial nominees. Even when presented in the most neutral way, people respond to the totality and say, most often, that something is very wrong. Indeed, in the open-ended follow-up to this discussion in the survey, the mostfrequent reactions are “wrong, wrong, wrong,” “very wrong,” “wrong in every sense.” One in five offers a simple declarative negative: “bad,” “horrible,” “pathetic,” “unbelievable,” “disturbing,”or “shocking.”

Other sets of comments, each mentioned by about 6 percent, focused on the Republicans
acting irresponsibly or recklessly (“out of control”) and the Republicans being intrusive and (interfering in personal matters.]

The open-ended reactions focused on the totality, though more about Schiavo than any
other piece – which included interfering and being moralistic – and some talked about wrong priorities, wrong direction and the conservatives’ ideological agenda, but there was very little specific recall of the Social Security reforms.

When given a list of options that might describe these events, the voters gravitated to “arrogance of power” (35 percent) and priorities (26 percent), that is, Republicans devoting their time to the wrong things. Somewhat further down were people saying “out of touch” (20 percent)and “forcing views on others” (20 percent). But for independents and moderates, 45 percent say this is arrogance, the top mention by far.


The Republicans are finally showing their spots. We must allow that revelation to unfold and as we do it, we will show that we stand for something by standing together against this arrogance of power. I doubt that eliminating the filibuster for judicial nominees will accrue to our advantage even when we obtain a majority; I'm certain it will not accrue to our benefit today. Acceding to the Republicans' arrogance and hubris is the surest way to reinforce the idea the Democrats are simply useless.


Updtae: This is rich. Read this post by DHinMI at The Next Hurrah about the Fortas nominations. The son of above mentioned Republican leader Robert Griffin, is one of the judges being denied an up or down vote. Sweet.

And be sure to read the tortured argument from that hack C. Boyden Gray about why this is entirely different. Not only is it absurd, it's factually incorrect.



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