Monday, January 30, 2006
"It Is The Only Way We Can Live"
So we only got 25 Senators to vote for a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee who, if defeated, would be replaced by someone just as bad by a president in the pocket of his radical right wing. Well.
Do you know how many votes the Republicans managed to get when uber wingnut Antonin Scalia was confirmed? 98. And Democrats had a majority. We didn't have to even think about a filibuster. We couldn't defeat Clarence Thomas and we had a majority, a huge push from women's groups and a very dramatic set of hearings that went into the wee hours of the morning. It is very, very tough to do.
Kevin Drum says:
The lefty blogosphere has spent the last week trying to fire up support for a filibuster of Samuel Alito. This campaign was never likely to succeed, and today it failed as expected. But that's not all: it failed by the embarrassingly lopsided margin of 72-25.
I'm glad the filibuster took place, because even in failure it puts a marker down for future court fights. Still, even given the amateurish way that Senate Dems handled it, I expected it to get more than 25 votes. So here's today's assignment: In 5,000 words or less, what does this say about the influence of the lefty blogosphere?
I didn't expect it to get more than 25 votes and I'm frankly stunned that we did as well as we did. Indeed, something very interesting happened that I haven't seen in more than a decade.
When it became clear that the vote was going against the filibuster, Diane Feinstein, a puddle of lukewarm water if there ever was one, decided to backtrack and play to the base instead of the right wing. That's new folks. Given an opportunity to make an easy vote, until now she and others like her (who are legion) would always default to the right to prove their "centrist" bonafides. That's the DLC model. When you have a free vote always use it to show that you aren't liberal. That's why she was against it originally --- a reflexive nod to being "reasonable."
Obama had to choke out his support for a filibuster, but he did it. A calculation was made that he needed to play to the base instead of the punditocrisy who believe that being "bold" is voting with the Republicans. Don't underestimate how much pressure there is to do that, especially for a guy like Obama who is running for King of the Purple. The whole presidential club, including Biden joined the chorus.
The last time we had a serious outpouring from the grassroots was the Iraq War resolution. My Senator DiFi commented at thetime that she had never seen anything like the depth of passion coming from her constituents. But she voted for the war anyway. So did Bayh, Biden, Clinton, Dodd, Kerry and Reid. The entire leadership of the party. Every one of them went the other way this time. I know that some of you are cynical about these people (and ,well, they are politicans, so don't get all Claud Rains about it) but that means something. Every one of those people were running in one way or another in 2002 and they went the other way. The tide is shifting. There is something to be gained by doing the right thing.
I keep hearing that it's bad that these Senators "pandered" to the blogosphere and I don't understand it. We want them to pander to the blogosphere. In their book Politicians Don't Pander; Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness Lawrence R. Jacobs and Robert Y. Shapiro argue:
Politicians respond to public opinion, then, but in two quite different ways. In one, politicians assemble information on public opinion to design government policy. This is usually equated with "pandering," and this is most evident during the relatively short period when presidential elections are imminent. The use of public opinion research here, however, raises a troubling question: why has the derogatory term "pander" been pinned on politicians who respond to public opinion? The answer is revealing: the term is deliberately deployed by politicians, pundits, and other elites to belittle government responsiveness to public opinion and reflects a long-standing fear, uneasiness, and hostility among elites toward popular consent and influence over the affairs of government
It isn't actually pandering. It's responsiveness. I believe that there is finally a recognition that the Party has hit the wall. We have moved as far to the right as we can go and we have been as accomodating as we can be without thoroughly compromising our fundamental principles. Most of us are not "far left" if that means extreme policy positions. Indeed, many of us would have been seen as middle of the road not all that long ago. We are partisans and that's a different thing all together. The leadership is recognising this.
I know it hurts to lose this one. I won't say that I'm not disappointed. But it was a very long shot from the outset and we managed to make some noise and get ourselves heard. The idea that it is somehow a sign of weakness because we only got 25 members of the Senate, including the entire leadership, to vote to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee is funny to me. Two years ago I would have thought somebody was on crack if they even suggested it was possible.
Firedoglake has a very nice post up about John Kerry and the others who voted to filibuster a Supreme Court nominee tonight and I urge you to read it. I agree with every word. This is a dramatic moment for the netroots. Get ready for marginalization, evocations of 1968 and 1972, calls for purging us from the party, the whole thing. That's what happens when the citizens rise up. Don't let it shake your will. We are the heart of the Democratic party and we can make a difference.
If you don't believe me, here's a great Democrat who might just convince you, Robert F. Kennedy:
"Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world's ills. Yet many of the world's great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the thirty-two-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal.
"These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
"Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.
"For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves, on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that effort.
"The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.
"Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live."
You rise to the occasion every time it's necessary. It is the only way we can live.
digby 1/30/2006 05:40:00 PM