Monday, January 30, 2006
JSW and GH have been bickering for a while on the filibuster. I decided to give my thought on the issue as a conservative. Jason has done a pretty good job setting out why he thinks the filibuster is unjustified, and why as much deference should be paid to Alito as was paid to Breyer and Ginsburg. (He left out the fact that although Breyer replaced Blackmun, Ginsburg replaced White, a change everyone knew would shift the court considerably to the left). I'm going to ignore these arguments, however. I don't really mind opposition to nominees on idealogical grounds. I wouldn't mind a filibuster. Philosophically, I dislike the super-legislature that the Court has become (at the behest of liberal jurists), and I think it's ironic that some of those jurists are now hoist on their own petard. "Sure, invent a few rights! After all, the constitution's a living document! Of course, let Congress and the President use the constitution for toilet paper! The welfare state is necessary! Oh, wait, now Republicans are in office. Stick to the constitution and previous decisions! Stop overturning old decisions, and let's have some restraint. The job of the judiciary is to restrain the government, no matter how necessary they say their restrictive actions are." In short, I absolutely want Alito to be appointed, but I don't mind, on philosophical and moral grounds, if those opposed fight him tooth and nail (including the filibuster). However, I want to examine the political ramifications of filibustering or not.
I think a filibuster would (if handled correctly), be an absolute boon to the GOP, and a death knell to the DFL. There are three possible outcomes, of course. Either the filibuster prevents the nomination, the filibuster continues for a while and fizzles, or the filibuster is broken by the "nuclear/constitutional option". Each one of these options would be in the GOP's favor, although it doesn't seem so. The first outcome seems disastrous. However, I don't think the Dems have been successful in making Alito unpopular. A filibuster stonewalling Alito could easily been painted as totally unnecessary and partisan politics. The Dems could paint it as "standing up for conscience" and Kos and the liberal blogosphere would rejoice. I don't think the general voting public would see it that way. They'd see a reasonably moderate, very well qualified candidate obstructed by partisan hacks who simply oppose GWB on anything he does. At least, they'd see it this way as long as the Repubs were successful in painting it this way. I think one of the GOP's strengths has been framing the issue, and so I think they would be successful. The Dems wouldn't come off as courageous warriors for individual rights, but bitter losers who are filibustering to make up for their impotence in stopping the war, the tax cuts, etc (again the perception). The second option, which I think would be most likely, is great for Republicans. If the GOP was smart, they'd let the Dems filibuster 'till the cows come home. "Why aren't we passing anything? Those Dems won't handle the business of the day. They're willing to give up the important business of the American people just to "stick it to" the president." Again, if handled correctly, this could be a coup. As the filibuster went on and on, with the Republicans just pointing fingers at "those extremists", I'm guessing the political pressure would force the Dems to finally vote to end the filibuster. The third option is the most tricky. I don't really like it. Fewer checks on the legislature and more power for the majorities are not a good thing in my mind. The more stagnation, the better. I don't want the federal government to be able to easily do anything. However, if the Republicans broke the filibuster, I think this would again be a victory, and certainly a contentious one, although it could maybe again be a draw. I think the American people are still on board with Alito. Filibustering him looks like poor sportsmanship, "I lost the game, so I'm taking my ball and going home"- politics. Breaking that filibuster (as long as the filibuster was allowed to continue for a while), could perhaps be a political victory if it was framed the right way. "There are important things we need to accomplish. We need to appoint a justice. The Dems continue to obstruct, despite the fact that we voted for their qualified but polarizing justices." Any way that this comes out, I think the GOP wins. Frankly, almost anyway this happens, the GOP wins, however. Alito gets in, almost no matter what, which is the biggest victory. The Court's power means that it, not the legislature or the presidency, the single most important post in the U.S. When given a chance, the GOP must make sure not to allow another Souter on the court. And if the DFL filibusters, they lost anyway. I probably would not, and save my fire for a more politically popular issue.
EDIT: Here's a good article by a Dem on the issue. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/01/29/tilting_at_alito/
There's a great case for a filibuster -- there's an agenda. Please consider it and forward it to your friends.Post a Comment