Thursday, January 26, 2006

Hail to the Resistance
So John Kerry (remember him?) intends to lead a filibuster against Samuel Alito. The New York Times called for it in an editorial today, and lots of people on the left have been doing so too, even if there's little chance of success, just to make the point that this guy is way, way out of the mainstream. I'm in favor of it, too, but we all need to understand the following:

A) We're not stopping Alito.
With 55 Repug votes in the bag, they only need five more to achieve cloture, and a couple of Democrats, Salazar of Colorado and Landrieu of Louisiana, are already saying they will vote for cloture.

(Mary Landrieu--what a terrible excuse for a Democrat. Really. "Because we have such a full plate of pressing issues before Congress, a filibuster would be, in my view, very, very counterproductive." Well, then, why not do all that first before confirming Alito? She even gets in the obligatory Repug talking point: "It is important that we have an up-or-down vote." Peter Daou's ears are ringing.)

The Repugs are claiming they already have 60 votes for cloture, and they're probably right, given that Nelson of Nebraska, Johnson of North Dakota, and Byrd of West Virginia say they'll vote for confirmation. If they favor the guy, it doesn't make much sense for them to vote against cloture--although Salazar says he will vote against Alito and for cloture, so anything's possible. (It's even possible that it might dawn on Salazar how stupid his position is.)

B) We're going to get killed by the media. The cruising-to-confirmation storyline has been agreed upon for a couple of weeks now, so this will be played like the obstructionist tactic of a few sore losers. We see it as another way for Democrats to get across the idea that Alito represents a serious turn to the right for the Court, one that's likely to empower the presidency and the corporations at the expense of the other two branches and average Americans. Nobody at the networks is interested in that, however, because it takes an adult attention span to understand it. The story will either be the eminently qualified Judge Alito versus anti-Bush bitter-enders who Hate America, or as Democrats engaging in frivolous self-aggrandizement. Given that Nurse Frist is vowing to call for a cloture vote early on to slap the opposition down, bet on frivolity being the preferred frame. The Times has already gotten the party started in the story linked above, calling Kerry's plan "a quixotic attempt to stop" the nomination.

C) We're going to get killed by members of our own party. At some point in the next couple of days, either Nelson, Johnson, Landrieu, or Salazar will stand up in front of a camera and start pounding lumps into their own party for filibustering the nom, and it'll get played on TV like it was the winning play of the Super Bowl. This will be seen as proof that the Democrats are a bunch of pussies who can't keep their own people in line. (Which is largely true.) And if they can't even do that with their own people, then how, Mr. and Mrs. America, can you dare trust them to protect your precious bodily fluids from Osama?

(I expect Byrd to keep quiet. His statement on Alito says his vote is in response to the wishes of his constituents, and he appears to buy the assurances Alito gave during the confirmation process--alas. I didn't get the sense from his statement that he will want to scold his colleagues. If he hadn't been challenged by a well-funded opponent just yesterday, he might not be voting like he is.)

D) We have to beat the hell out of a handful of talking points and keep repeating them until we're blue in the face no matter what anyone says in response to them.
Every senator who speaks needs to be speaking from the same script, over and over like an endless loop, inside the Senate and outside on various TV and radio shows. This is part of the wider war that's left to be fought, in which we have to change the subject from what the Repugs want to talk about to what we want to talk about.

E) John Kerry has grown testicles 18 months too late. He gave a fine speech on the floor of the Senate yesterday, in which he made clear that the issue with Alito is not whether he's qualified, but what his ideology is, and how much that ideology stands to screw with what Americans find important. How nice of him to take the lead in a fight that's doomed to fail, as opposed to the fight he should have won rather easily in 2004. And with a story appearing just hours before the filibuster announcement that he hasn't ruled out a presidential run in 2008, it doesn't take a genius to tell you that the filibuster is going to be diminished by suggestions that it's a campaign ploy.

So even though it's going down hard and fast, we need to filibuster anyway, if only to get ourselves used to fighting. As the Rude Pundit said so well last week:
Democrats need to think of themselves as an organized resistance, an insurgency against a dictatorial government, an uprising with popular support among the citizens of the United States. A resistance doesn't succeed unless it actually, you know, resists. And if not on Alito, then what? Dianne Feinstein-leaning Democrats need to take a page from the anti-abortion movement: if you believe it's about life and death, then act like you wanna save lives.
What he said.

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