Thursday, April 28, 2005

No Nukes: Admirable post, Flyer. This is not an easy issue, I think, since one can feel that the Democrats are being unprincipled bastards even without any sympathy for Bush's picks for the court. One thing worth remembering, as I've mentioned before, is that the Dems are only interested in railroading Bush on judges as a prelude to a Supreme Court nomination fight. In other words, this is just spring training.

It seems to be in the interest of both parties to declare some sort of crisis. For the GOP, it is the crisis of "democracy": the Dems are spoiling against the will of the people, which went clearly to the GOP last November. For the Dems, it is the crisis of "extremism": Bush is attempting to ram through a slate of non-mainstream judges without allowing the Senate enough say in the matter. There is little merit to either position, unless one defines mainstream as "Pat Leahy" and democracy as "we should always get our way." True, Bush has nominated some conservatives; this is life in the two-party system, though. And true, the minority (by quietly using it's own nuclear option) has effectively stymied the majority in the Senate. Again, life in the two-party system. I'm unconvinced that this rather petty stalemate requires any change to Senate rules.

In fact, I see no evidence of any kind of crisis. (The GOP claim that "nobody's ever used the filibuster this way before" is possibly the most ridiculous. Nobody ever used the filibuster any way, until they did. The filibuster tactic is a famous example of a bug that became a feature.) I would think that the GOP has seen enough gains in the past 3 elections that they would be wise to go to the people one more time, in 2006, before entertaining other options that might show them appearing to over-reach.

Meanwhile, I advised the Dems against their tactics beginning in 2003, after 2002 handed them bupkus for their efforts. Another disastrous election later, I'd advise them to start listening to me. Yes, there is a chance that the GOP might self-destruct on this issue; on the other hand, there is a track record that says a hard line on nominations has brought them only a steeper minority in the Senate. Both parties need to back off pretty quickly, I think. The Dems have already been stupid, and the GOP is about to be even more so.

As for the filibuster itself, I do think it has become rather diluted in value. Strom Thurmond filibustering for 24 hours against Civil Rights is a dramatic picture, for both sides, that draws the public into the debate. Nowadays, they just close up debate prior to any actual filibustering, and move on to issues of agreement, like smothering the market with idiotic subsidies, tax breaks, and other varieties of corporate welfare. Nevertheless, I like the filibuster in theory as a brake on the powers of the majority, and I'd like it to remain -- just in case we ever do muster 40 senators to the side of righteousness. Besides, anything that shuts down the workings of the government, even temporarily, can't be that bad.

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