Dems Split on Filibuster

Senator Barak Obama is the latest Dem to register his unhappiness with the prospect of a filibuster.

To more effectively oppose Supreme Court nominees in the future, Democrats need to convince the public "their values are at stake" rather than use stalling tactics to try to thwart the president, said a senator who opposes Samuel Alito's confirmation…

"There is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers," he told ABC's "This Week." …

"There's one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court are judges that reflect our values. And that's to win elections," Obama said.
In one sense, I agree with him. I know there’s a big chance of a filibuster backfiring because the Dems will be tagged as obstructionists and, quite frankly, they haven’t done enough work in getting out the message that there are very good reasons to filibuster Alito on behalf of voters. And I agree that the best way to ensure that rightwing douchebags don’t get nominated to the Supreme Court is to win elections.

But, on the other hand, part of what the Democrats need to do to win elections is reassert their commitment to liberal values. Yes, the media proactively supports the GOP, which makes it infinitely harder for the Dems’ message to get out, but the Dems need to share some of the blame for being seen as a mixed-message party. They have largely supported the war and the Patriot Act, they allowed Bush to claim bipartisan victories on some big legislation like the bankruptcy bill and bipartisan support for many of his nominees, including Alberto Gonzales, Condi Rice, and John Roberts, and many of the most prominent Dems are public triangulators, like Hillary Clinton, aligning themselves with such conservative legislation as flag-burning amendments. At some point, the Dems are going to need to take a stand against the GOP and their attempt to obliterate all liberal principles and actors from governance. Filibustering Alito’s nomination is drawing that line in the sand. Or at least it should be.

I’m concerned that some Dems are getting comfortable relying on the old adage, “Give ‘em enough rope to hang themselves.” Taking a sit-back-and-wait attitude until they’ve gone so far that Americans will vote for anyone else is not a good idea. Not only have Bush & Co. have escaped the noose plenty of times already, but I guarantee you, with that kind of lazy, entitled attitude, someone else will sneak in with some snappy rhetoric about integrity (cough*John McCain*cough), and we’ll end up with more of the same horseshit wrapped in a deceptively appealing package.

Sure, appointing judges that reflect Democratic values necessitates winning elections, but that’s only half the story. The other half is that winning elections is predicated on reliably demonstrating those values in the first place, especially when it’s not the most politically expedient thing to do.

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