13 January 2006


The headline says the Supreme Court nominee Alito's nomination is on track. The body text doubts that the Democrats will even try to filibuster his nomination. If they don't, they are making a profound misstep.

Alito is intelligent and hard working, but his heart is in the wrong place. He is, truly, a judge in the mold of Justices Thomas and Scalia. He is an activist judge who interprets the law in a manner far outside of mainstream legislative and constitutional jurisprudence in a manner that is authoritarian, anti-civil liberties, anti-racial equality, anti-consumer and anti-woman. If he is appointed to replace swing vote Sandra Day O'Connor, the Court will take a sharp turn to the right. An extremist is an extremist, even if he can manage to be vague and polite in front of a Congressional committee. Actions speak louder than words.

This nomination is the moment that Democratic voters have been primed, for at least a decade, to direct their efforts towards. I can't think of a Democratic candidate who has not, at some point in a campaign, identified stopping judges like this as a key political goal. The Republicans have threatend to end the filibuster all together if Democrats try to use it. So what? What is the filibuster for, if not to stop a lifetime appointment of an extremist judge to the United States Supreme Court? If the filibuster is ended, Republicans will rue the day that made that choice when Democrats return to the majority, something hardly implausible as soon as this year's elections given the way that the political winds are blowing. You regain a majority by showing the people that you stand for something, not by letting hoary customs of comity in the Senate (which the Republicans have never shown any qualms at dishonoring and have threatened to disregard in this very instance) get in the way of one of the most important objectives of your political base.

A filibuster of Alito, even if it ultimately fails, either because the Republican change the rules, or because traitor Democratic Senators fail to vote for it, shows the Democratic base that its elected officials have kept the faith with them. It informs the public that Democrats and Republicans are not just all the same. Those Democratic Senators who don't vote for a filibuster (which is the only vote that counts in this nomination) will lose the support that got them into office and will have betrayed the trust of their party and the people of this country. Even if a Democratic Senator votes against a filibuster and then against Alito on the merits, that Senator has shown him or herself to be a fool, who puts form about substance, who does not deserve their office.

Colorado's Junior Senator, Ken Salazar, whom I worked hard to get elected, is in the thick of it, and has proven particularly wobbly on the issue of approving questionable executive branch appointments in the past. I can only hope that he will wake up, do the right thing, and rally behind a filibuster of Alito this time. Somebody has to save this country from falling into extremism and abandoning our constitutional soul. Right now that duty falls squarely on the shoulders of Ken Salazar. He's certainly capable of rising to the task, but I have little faith that he will. So, in the absence of faith, all I can do is hope.

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