Tuesday, June 10, 2008

McCain and the Court UPDATED

I am a disappointed, though not necessarily disgruntled, Clinton voter. Unlike my fellow bloggers here, I have not yet enthusiastically embraced Senator Obama. However, at no point during this process did I let go of my absolute disgust with the Republican Party and my opposition to everything elephant. I have chosen to support Senator Obama because electing John McCain would be a disaster for this country. President John McCain is four more years of George Bush. President Obama will bring progress on the issues that I care about.

Although Hillary Clinton’s candidacy for the presidency has been “suspended” (read: It's over), I continue to maintain ties to my fellow Clintonistas, many of whom refuse to give their support to Senator Obama. Many are planning to write Hillary in. Others are openly supporting Republican Senator John McCain.

Much of the debate raging on the Clinton forums and blogs involves the importance of the Supreme Court. Many Clinton advocates argue that electing John McCain does not endanger a woman’s right to choose and other important causes because a Democratic Senate would not allow a President McCain to appoint right-wing Supreme Court Justices. With all due respect to my friends pushing this argument, a review of the recent history casts serious doubt on this argument.

In the spring of 2005, Senate Democrats and Republicans locked horns over judicial nominations. Senate Democrats had filibustered a number of President Bush’s judicial nominees—preventing an up-or-down vote—because they felt they were too extreme. Then GOP Senate Majority leader Bill Frist was threatening to use the so-called “nuclear option,” changing Senate rules allowing for a simple majority vote to close debate on judicial nominations. Senate Democrats responded by promising to use the rules of procedure to bring the Senate to grinding halt.

To avert the coming train wreck, a bipartisan group of senators, known as the Gang of 14,came together and signed an agreement averting a showdown. The seven Republican senators agreed not support the “nuclear option” while the seven Democratic senators agreed only to support filibusters under “extraordinary circumstances.” The result was the confirmation of Priscilla Owen, Janice Rodgers Brown, and William Pryor to various appellate courts.

Later, when Bush nominated Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito, the Gang of 14 refused to support a filibuster and both candidates were given the full support of the Senate. Justice Roberts was confirmed with the support of 22 Democrats, including Senators Dodd (CT), Levin (MI), and Byrd (WV). Senators Kennedy and Kerry attempted to filibuster Samuel Alito’s nomination, but they were thwarted by the Gang of 14 and a number of other Senate Democrats. Debate was closed with a vote of 72-25 and Alito was confirmed 58-42, with four Democrats (Nelson-NE, Byrd-WV, Johnson-SD, and Conrad-ND) crossing the aisle to support his nomination.

Going back further, in 1991, eleven Democrats voted with 41 Republicans to confirm Justice Clarence Thomas, this at a time when Democrats had a 56-44 majority in the Senate.

Simply put, the Democratic Party does not have a history of standing up to right-wing judicial nominations. Senator Clarence Thomas was so conservative that although he would be the only African-American Justice, the NAACP refused to endorse his nomination. He still got eleven Demcratic votes.

Yes, we will have bigger majorities in the fall, but many of those senators will be representing purple or red states. Looking at today’s Electoral Vote Senate map, under the rosiest projection, Democrats could have a 58-42 majority in January (including Joe Lieberman, DINO-CT).


This map assumes pick-ups in conservative states such as Mississippi, Colorado, Kentucky, Alaska, and Virginia and it also assumes that we hold our seat in Louisiana. In addition, we already have senators from Virginia (Webb), Montana (Tester), Arkansas (Lincoln, Pryor), and Louisiana (Landrieu). That also doesn’t account for our pro-life Democrats, Senator Majority Leader Harry Ried (NV) and Senator Bob Casey, Jr (PA).

I cannot pretend to understand the anger and disappoint that my fellow Clintonistas are experiencing right now. Compared to most, I didn’t work as hard or contribute as much. My own emotions in this race have been difficult for me to sort out and I won’t judge those who are in a different place than I. However, I cannot agree with this argument that the Senate will protect us from a neo-conservative court, not when John McCain has already promised to deliver strict constructionist judges and Democrats have no history of standing up to Republican presidents.

I urge my fellow Clintonistas, whom I deeply respect, to re-consider their opposition to Senator Obama, not out of fear, but out of a shared desire to move our country forward on the issues that all of us, including Hillary, hold dear.

Cross-posted at MyDD.

[Updated at 3:15 am by Psychodrew]

Everything I post here, at MyDD, and at other places is cross-posted at my Facebook page where I can communicate with non-liberals and people who otherwise wouldn't visit a blog. Today, one of my Republican friends, an avowed Dittohead and Christian conservative, responded to this post with the following:

To say they [Senate Democrats] haven't done enough is mind boggling. Look at all the people they refused to confirm on the lower courts. This statement is appalling. They have gone against tradition in filibustering judicial nominations. It's never been done in history and the deomcrats are proud to be the first to do it. As for McCain, you don' t have to worry because he will never nominate a true conservative to the court. I'm so surprised that you think they haven't done enough. That's really a telling sign. All they did was stand up to Bush.


For all of our concerns about party unity, I have to say that GOP is not in good shape right now. In fact, I believe their situation is much worse. Their division is ideological, ours is emotional. We can get beyond hurt feelings, but getting people to vote against their political beliefs is another matter entirely.

So just a reminder, it has only been FOUR days since Senator Clinton conceded. We have more than four months to repair the breach. I believe that is plenty of time for our party to come back together again.

4 comments:

DCDemocrat said...

This is a very important point you make. There is a diary over at mydd that documents the ages of the members of the court. The next president, should he serve two terms, may well appoint six justices.

atdnext said...

DCDem-

And that's just MORE reason to not allow John McBush anywhere near the White House. Do we really want a far-right GOPer picking the next 6 Supreme Court justices?

Drew-

Thank you SO MUCH for writing this! We need to remember important issues like the Courts as we consider how to move on after last week.

Diane said...

Well said. And that Thomas was appointed to replace the great Thurgood Marshall is an insult to that man, and all he achieved.

DCDemocrat said...

That was an exceedingly interesting update. Thank you for posting it.

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