Tuesday, November 01, 2005

No Nukes!

I've thought about it some, and I'm inclined to come out and say I think it would be bad politics for Democrats to filibuster Scalito.

Yes, I understand he's a scary monster. He's virtually guaranteed to be the deciding vote that reverses many if not all of the progressive judicial victories of the last eighty years. He's young enough, just like John Roberts, that he could be a source of trouble for progressives on the Supreme Court for the next sixty years. (Remember, kids— this is the 21st century, and we are getting a lot better at extending the life spans of rich people.) He is— as the Rude Pundit would say without editing it for passage through profanity filters— a mthrfsckr.

Except... I'm concerned about the political fallout. The GOP reactionary factions love Scalito more than they love Bush, so don't expect Scalito to need any help from a weakened White House, entangled in scandal. If Democrats attempt a filibuster— assuming they can peel five of their seven members out of the Gang of Fourteen, enough to sustain one— then Republicans will only need three more of their own to invoke the so-called "nuclear" option. That would be a Revolution in the U.S. Senate. In other words, we'd get two revolutions for the price of one.

I don't think Scalito can be stopped without also defeating a move to invoke the "nuclear" option, and I don't think the "nuclear" option can be defeated here.

So the question is: Scalito? Or... Scalito and reactionary control of the Senate? Remember, cloture is the principle mechanism that enables minorities in the Senate to prevent the worst excesses of extremists among the majority. The "nuclear" option erases the 60-vote cloture for judicial appointments, but more importantly, it sets the precedent that any debate can be stopped by a simple majority with a procedural trick.

Given my assumption above, it makes sense to look at who will get the blame for what when the dust settles. When Americans decide the court has been packed with reactionary fscknozzles, I don't think many of them will blame Democrats for deciding not to filibuster them. They'll blame Republicans for appointing such fscknozzles and making a reactionary ideological litmus test a requirement for Presidential candidates.

On the other hand, when the train wreck of gerrymandered House districts collides with the natural conservative bias of the Senate supercharged by eliminating the 60-vote cloture with the "nuclear" option, the narrative will be that Democrats brought on the imbalance by launching "too many filibusters" of judicial appointments. Think ahead, kids— by the time this clusterfsck is apparent to everyone, the filibuster will be a distant memory of how business was conducted back when the U.S.A. was ostensibly a "two-party" republic. We will be firmly in the land of National Bolshevism, and the Party [of which there will be only one that counts] will be the main engine of policy development— not the Congress or the Cabinet.

Some will say that Democrats have to decide where they will stand and fight. Progressives can't allow themselves to be pushed around by the mere threat of the "nuclear" option. I beg to differ. They can. At the moment, the explicit threat is just to eliminate filibusters for judicial appointments. The reactionaries are still nervous about pulling the trigger on cutting off the minority in all Senate debates, and that's an advantage progressives would be stupid to sacrifice— even if they had a real chance to stop a monster like Scalito from ascending to the court with it, which they don't.

Bush and his supporters can be blamed for Scalito. Progressives have to believe they can win back the Congress and/or the White House eventually— the alternative leads to highly non-pragmatic thinking. Let's make sure we can still do something useful in the Senate while we are still the minority. Let's give over the SCOTUS to the reactionaries without a pointless fight we are doomed to lose. It's time to face reality: we lost that fight when Bush was returned to office in 2004.

There. I've said my piece. You may now commence the beatings until I repent and join the rest of the progressive on the barricades for the final battle against evil.

No comments: