Some tiny creature, mad with wrath,

Is coming nearer on the path.

--Edward Gorey

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S. Outlying Islands

Writer, lawyer, cyclist, rock climber, wanderer of dark residential streets, friend.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Attacking the Judiciary is as Exclusive as a Country Club

This Topic has grown nearly too big for discussion. I recommend that anyone interested in the developing story of the Senate's bid to end the filibuster and pack the federal court's with anti-abortion, anti-civil rights idealogues keep a close eye on Bashman's typically up-to-the-minute compendium of rhetoric and tactics on both sides of the aisle, which is where I found the articles I have selected to discuss presently.

I find notable the contrast between two recent articles. In the first article, the Los Angeles Times outlines a recent event in which fringe evangelical called for the defrocking or defunding of judges who diverge from an arch conservative agenda. I'm sorry, did I just say 'fringe?' I meant to say 'the position of the Republican leadership.' I found especially alarming this passage:

Claiming a role by the movement in the GOP gains, [founder of Focus on the Family James C.] Dobson concluded: "We've got a right to hold them accountable for what happens here."

Both [Dobson and Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council,] chastised what Perkins termed "squishy" and "weak" Republican senators who have not wholeheartedly endorsed ending Democrats' power to filibuster judicial nominees. They said these included moderates such as Sens. Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. They also grumbled that Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and George Allen of Virginia needed prodding.

"We need to shake these guys up," Perkins said.

Said Dobson: "Sometimes it's just amazing to me that they seem to forget how they got here."

Contrast this sentiment with this article, which found that private Republican polling -- not leftwing push-polls, mind you, but polling contracted by Republicans for Republicans -- found that the majority of Republicans by a margin of 51-37 do not favor their caucus's intentions to end the filibuster. Furthermore, "only about 20 percent of Americans believe the Republican statement that Bush is the first president in history whose court appointees have been subjected to a filibuster." (If only we could have gotten the number of people who connected Saddam to 9/11 as low, we might have seen a Kerry presidency.)

Republicans, of course, appear to be undeterred by the evidence of their constituents' disapproval. "'Polling on this issue is not going to make a difference. We are going to try to do what's right,' [K. Bailey] Hutchison [R-TX] said during the day." Funny, because when they claim to have public opinion on their side, they excoriate any decision converse to majority opinion as anti-democratic and out of step with mainstream America. When they're out of the mainstream of their own party, however, they justify their imminent defiance by reference to "the right thing."

It's also worth noting that among the speakers at the evangelical conference at which Dobson and Perkins determined to bend Senate Republicans over a barrel and love them like altar boys were none other than Majority Leaders Tom DeLay and Bill Frist. I wonder how they do it, sit there in a proceeding where fringe wackos are basically stating in unequivocal terms that Their Eminences are nothing more than punks to a bunch of bible-pounding revanchist rednecks.

And no, I'm not accusing the whole party of being like this. Indeed, the polling discussed above suggests the most of the party is far above threatening supposedly independent Article III judges with termination for ruling as their training and convictions regarding the law compel them to rule. The fact remains, the GOP faithful are letting their party be hijacked -- in plain daylight, and without even the benefit of a threatening weapon -- by some very scary people who make no bones about saying that they believe they bought the GOP and it now belongs to them.

I find this odd, also, as a rhetorical device because I reject the terminology of "swing" votes. I hate it when it's applied to Justice Kennedy or O'Connor, and I hate it when it's applied to the electorate at large. To say that but for the grace of the far evangelical right the GOP would go back to lucrative jobs as defense industry lobbyists is as silly as holding Justice O'Connor responsible for every case in which she was one vote of a five-vote majority. It's a rhetorical convenience, and lacks all discernible rigor. Just as no five-vote majority on the Court can occur without any of the five justices joining the majority, so can no congressman win election without a healthy dose of mainstream votes, no one of which is any less important than the votes of evangelicals. Perhaps it is true that without the fundamentalist right the GOP would not hold congressional majorities or the White House. But it's also true that they wouldn't hold those things without the good old-fashioned mainstream republican votes either. And poll after poll -- on Social Security, Schiavo, and the filibuster -- suggests those Republicans are a majority of Republican voters generally, indeed perhaps a plurality of all American voters. It's time for these people to step up. If the evangelicals don't like a GOP that's in touch with its moderate majority, than they can go home, vote Democrat, write in candidates, whatever.

But it's only mainstream Republicans who can wrest their party back from the depths of theocracy and the corrupt behavior that vocal minority is extorting from its minions.

Yesterday, I saw a bumper sticker that read "If you aren't outraged, you aren't paying attention." I want one.

Oh, and while I'm at it, how's this for reasoned debate: "For all the Republican talk about a 'nuclear option' to stop filibusters on stalled judicial nominees, the GOP has been firing blanks from water pistols while liberal Democrats beat White House nominees like rented mules." That's Oliver North, misrepresenting the focus of his own article -- the failure of Republicans to rubber stamp the class of Bush appointments voted Most Likely to Fuck Up Their New Jobs, the president of which is John Bolton.


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